Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Weapons of Microscopic Destruction
How your immune system keeps you safe from attack

WMD 720Your body is under attack! All around you are pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses that can cause disease.  But don’t panic – your immune system works day and night to defend you.  Your immune system is an army of specialist cells with high-tech weapons; scientists at the Babraham Institute carry out novel research which seeks to increase our understanding of how our immune system functions and how it changes throughout our lives.

Our scientists developed a public exhibit and online resources to share their most recent research with you.  This exhibit, initially developed in 2014, was updated for the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2015 which ran from 29 June to 5 July at the Royal Society in London.

The Immune Army website is NOW LIVE - check out the amazing new Immune Army video on the home page.

Thursday 11th June 2015
It's time to prepare our own army - Babraham’s army of volunteers!

All 40 of our volunteers were lining themselves up for an afternoon of intensive Royal Society Summer Exhibition (RSSE) training yesterday.  In preparation for our exhibit on the 29th June - 4th July, our volunteer scientists got together to find out more about what would be involved.  It is our aim that visitors to our stand not only learn about how your Immune System keeps you safe from attack but will find out about the amazing science and careers at the Babraham Institute.

The training was run by Cambridge University’s Public Engagement Manager (& RSSE veteran) Dane Comerford.  The session was lively and covered a range of topics from getting across key messages to the logistics of manning an exhibition over seven days!  Dane did an excellent job and managed to get everyone including students, post docs and Group Leaders up to speed. 
Our scientists are ready to leave their laboratories and lab coats behind – they are armed with the training and raring to go.  So why not come along and say hello?  Come and find us at the Weapons of Microscopic Destruction stand on the Ground Floor of the Royal Society.
RSSE training

Friday 5th June 2015
Assemble the immune army: the battle for your body
Mission: to find attack and destroy bodily invaders.

Whether or not you’re lucky enough to be attending the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2015, you can get a flavour of our exhibit, ‘Immune army: Weapons of Microscopic Destruction’ without leaving home. Our newly released video introduces your immune army and how the key cells of your immune system work together to keep you fit and healthy.

The video stars the five main cell types making up your immune system:

B cells: the ninjas who recognise any invader and make antibodies
T cells: the soldiers, sergeant majors and policemen of the immune system who coordinate attacks and kill
Macrophages and dendritic cells: the surveillance squad who eat invaders and alert B and T cells
Neutrophils: the foot soldiers and first line of defence who detect invaders and unleash chemical weapons to kill

In addition to bringing the immune system to life using animation, the video features Babraham Institute researchers explaining how discoveries resulting from the Institute’s immunological research programme have helped advance our understanding of how the immune system works with important applications for healthcare and in an ageing population.

Friday 15th May 2015
Your Neutralising Neutrophils

This week we have been building a new interactive element of our exhibit which will explore the variety of immunology research at the Institute – sneak peeks will be coming soon! One of the scientists working on this new activity, Martin Baker, is a PhD student in our Signalling research programme. His work focusses on ‘Neutrophils’, but what exactly are they?

Neutrophils are the body’s rapid response force, first on the scene when you graze your knee or cut your finger. They are the most common type of immune cell circulating around our bodies. When they sense an infection, cancerous cells or invader they crawl towards it in a process called chemotaxis, travelling at speeds of up to 10μm min-1! So, in 2 hours they can travel over 1 mm, which doesn’t sound fast, but for something as small as a neutrophil it’s a long way! This makes them one of the fastest moving cells in our bodies, allowing them to chase their target.

Neutrophil character

Once at the site of an infection the neutrophil switches roles from a racing car to a tank as it unleashes its weapons against invaders. Neutrophils can neutralise their target in three ways; by engulfing and breaking down pathogens, such as bacteria, in a process called phagocytosis; by releasing highly reactive components which break the target down; by releasing a DNA net to capture the invader. Often, when neutrophils meet a large infection they sacrifice themselves for the greater good! We see evidence of this in the form of a thick yellow substance at the site of infections called pus. This is a mixture of dead neutrophils, components of the released granules and hopefully, dead invaders.

To find out more about neutrophils and the rest of the immune army – check out our website here.


Thursday 7th May 2015
The Immune Army teaser video is ready!

The teaser for the full video to accompany the Babraham Institute 'Weapons of Microscopic Destruction' exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2015. The full version will feature Babraham Institute scientists as well as explaining how the key cells of your immune system work together to keep you fit and healthy.

Monday 4th May 2015
Your Immune Army is reporting for action!

Babraham Institute scientists are showcasing their immunology research at this year’s Royal Society Summer Exhibition, through their exciting exhibit called ‘Weapons of Microscopic Destruction’. The exhibit explores the army of specialist cells which make up your immune system, how they keep you safe from invaders such as bacteria and viruses and how your immune system changes as you age.

Our scientists have created the ‘Immune Army’ website to share resources and information about your immune system. Meet your immune cells and find out what they do, learn how your immune army gets ready for battle, find out about our latest immunology research, check out our videos and download resources for schools AND see if you can assemble your defences in time in our ‘Antibody Assembly’ game!

The Immune Army website is NOW LIVE and the Royal Society Summer Exhibition runs from 29th June to 5th July at the Royal Society in London.

Immune Army