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Image of the Week: St George and the Dragon

22 Apr, 2016

B0010648 St George and the dragon - T lymphocyte killing a cancer cell

With St George’s day on the horizon, our image of the week tells the story through cellular processes found in the human body. The part of St George being played by a T-lymphocyte (blue) and that of the slain dragon by a cancer cell (green).

A killer Image

A T-lymphocyte, or T-cell, is a type of white blood cell. This particular T-cell is the cytotoxic kind (toxic to living cells), and is therefore able to identify dangerous cancer cells and destroy them. Here, the red granules are the T cell’s killing weapon; they are cytotoxic granules and are able to permeate the cancer cell membrane, releasing lymphokines which signal an immune response and activate the process of apoptosis (cell death).

The cancer cell here shows the nucleus (black), the endothelial reticulum (the green parallel bars, middle left) and many internal vacuoles in various colours, representing the self-digesting process associated with apoptosis. The power of the T-cell alone, however, is not always enough to succeed in its task, as it is often difficult to achieve accurate identification of a cancer cell.

It is the potential power of these T-cells that have led research scientists to continue to investigate how they might be manipulated further. It is hoped they will help to provide much safer, and more effective, treatments for cancer, which work in conjunction with the bodies own immune response. This has led many to believe these cells could be our ‘knight in shining armour’ against cancer.

A video showing the ‘warrior’ T-Cell at work can be seen here.

The legend

According to the Christian belief, in the story of the heroic St George, patron saint of England, many people died before the monstrous dragon could first be wounded and then publicly killed. On its death the king established a Christian church in St George’s name, and within it a ‘fountain of living water’ which was said to heal the sick.

More of the story and legend of St George can be found here.

The artist

This image is one of a collection acquired by Wellcome Images from London-based scientific artist Odra Noel. Odra trained as a doctor and has a PhD in basic science from the University of London. Her art training includes a BA in aesthetics and music.

From her exposure through the microscope to cell culture, organ dissection, tissue analysis and morphological studies, she has developed an enthusiastic interest in scientific art. The original artworks are painted silks which have been digitised for inclusion in our image library, Wellcome Images.

To find out how you can use Odra’s images get in touch


One Comment leave one →
  1. 22 Apr, 2016 9:01 am

    In my opinion, the title makes the artwork really funny and gives it more impact at the same time.

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