The Immune Cells Selfies

You don’t need a background in immunology to appreciate these photos of immune cells in action. Of course video and animations might show more, but these immune selfies captured the moment. I remember some of these images as classic poses by the famous immune cells like dendritic cells, macrophages, b cells, etc…

28 years ago, National Geographic Magazine published an article entitled, Our Immune System: The Wars Within. Written by Peter Jaret with photography by Lennart Nilsson for Boehringer Ingelheim, the article appeared in the June 1986 issue of National Geographic Magazine. In April 2013, reddit user spukkingfaceship discovered the old issue and scanned some of the images and posted the gallery toImgur where is has been viewed over 300,000 times.

The Wars within.

A macrophage (x18000), a human defense cell, seeking to engulf droplets of oil.

T-cell under attack from HIV

A major component of the immune system, a helper t-cell is under attack by Hiv/ AIDS (blue)


latecomers in immunesystem evolution, B-cells, like this specimen covered with bacteria, produce armies of anti-bodies whose sole purpose is to attack a single kind of pathogen.

On the attack

Malaria protozoa have multiplied in two cells in a culture dish of red blood cells. One has burst open releasing the parasites to infect other cells

Skin tissue

First line of defense agains armies of dangerous microorganisms, skin tissue is able to mend itself rapidly after injury.

Cell eater

First step in phagocytosis, or “cell eating” a macrophage extends several pseudopods from it’s singlecelled form to embrace a number of E-coli bacteria

Bacteria Trap

Bacteria trapped within an extension of a macrophage membrane


Powerful chemicals inside the macrophage will breakdown and destroy the components of invading cells.

A macrophage reaches out

Like a vision from science fiction, a macrophage reaches out to ensnare bacteria with a cellular extension called a pseudopod.


One of mankind’s greatest inorganic threats, asbestos fibres are engulfed by a macrophage which will probably die from it’s indigestible meal.


mutiny in the body is a constant occurrence, many believe, as healthy cells somehow escape the mechanisms that regulate cell growth and turn cancerous. Fortunately, antigens on their surfaces sometimes alter slightly, changing from self to non-self. Thus the cells become targets for Killer T-cells, like these surrounding this large cancer cell.

Killer T’s

Frozen in action, killer T cells appear remarkably alive as they attack a cancer cell. Several of the normally round T-cells acquire the elongated shape of active fighters as they subject their target to chemical attack, breaking down the cell membrane.


After a cancer cell loses it’s cytoplasm, only a fibrous skelleton is left, here surrounding a T-cell.


Overzealous immune responses, allergic reactions plague humans who produce certain unnecessary antibodies.


A renegade immune system has ravaged a (surgically removed) femur of a 50 year old women suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Most common of al the autoimmune disorders.

Very devious

The common cold virus, constantly mutates to avoid detection. Just how totally viruses can overcome a healthy host is seen when an infected human cell ruptures, releasing a stream of new viruses (blue) into the system.

It would be cool to image cells like the regulatory cells, immune cells interacting with micro-organisms, parasites, biomaterials and other allergens.

(via Twistedsifter, Original Scans, Original Article – National Geographic)


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