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Spying on White Cells

This image of the white blood cells of a live mouse is among the first to depict a process believed to play a role in sickle-cell anemia, in which deformed red blood cells starve tissues of oxygen. The misshapen cells can attach to larger white cells, worsening clogging in small blood vessels. Visualizations of this process could help researchers identify new molecular targets for drugs to relieve the painful symptoms of the disease, which afflicts 72,000 Americans and millions more globally.

In the image, made at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, three different fluorescent-tagged antibodies on the surface of white blood cells glow blue, red, and green, revealing distinct surface areas. A clearer view of the cells will help researchers identify the mechanisms by which sickle-shaped red cells attach to them, aiding the discovery of better drug targets.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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