Green blobs appear to vibrate and move quickly from cell to cell, killing as they go.
Inside a single teaspoon of blood are around 5 million cytotoxic T cells, the body's very own "serial killers." But don't worry, they're on your side.
"Inside all of us lurks an army of serial killers whose primary function is to kill again and again," Professor Gillian Griffiths, director of the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, said in a statement. "These cells patrol our bodies, identifying and destroying virally infected and cancer cells and they do so with remarkable precision and efficiency."
Researchers at the University of Cambridge were able to capture video of this type of white blood cell attacking abnormal cells using high-resolution 3-D time-lapse multi-color imaging. They used two types of microscopy — spinning disc confocal microscopy and lattice light sheet microscopy — to produce the 3-D images of the tiny cells in action.
Watch the video where the green cytotoxic T cells kill blue cancer cells:
Using this technique, the researchers were able to observe how the T cells do their job, ridding the body of infection.
"In our bodies, where cells are packed together, it's essential that the T cell focuses the lethal hit on its target, otherwise it will cause collateral damage to neighbouring, healthy cells," Griffiths said. "Once the cytotoxins are injected into the cancer cells, its fate is sealed and we can watch as it withers and dies. The T cell then moves on, hungry to find another victim."
According to a news release about the research published in the journal "Immunity," the cytotoxins, shown in red in the video, are injected into the cancerous cells through microtubules.
Earlier this year, the National Institutes of Health with researchers from Cambridge and Oxford University released a similar dramatized video called "Celldance 2014" for the American Society for Cell Biology, describing how the T cells work: