Cells control their dance of death

La Trobe University researchers have revealed for the first time how white blood cells control the final moments of their death, helping their own removal from the human body.


Scientists from the La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS), working with La Trobe cell biologist Associate Professor Ivan Poon, have identified a protein within dying cells called Plexin B2 that is responsible for coordinating a key stage of apoptosis (cell death).

Published today in Cell Reports, the study is a significant step forward in understanding what may trigger numerous disease states such as inflammation and autoimmunity.

Lead researcher Dr Georgia Atkin-Smith said the key function of Plexin B2 was discovered when they used CRISPR gene-editing technology to delete the protein from white blood cells.

"Normally, dying white blood cells undergo a dynamic death and shoot out long, beaded, necklace-like structures and fragment into small pieces," Dr Atkin-Smith said.

"However, since our discovery of this process in 2015, we have not understood how or why this dance of death occurs.
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