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Scanning electron micrograph of an ependymoma cell and a natural killer cell

A natural-killer cell (pink) sidles up to a tumour cell (yellow). Credit: Eye of Science/SPL


Natural-killer cells sound the alarm against cancer

Immune cells help to marshal the body’s soldiers against tumours.

Immune cells called natural-killer cells play a key part in the body’s campaign against cancer, according to a study of mouse and human tumours.

Previous research has shown that the immune system relies on versatile troops called dendritic cells to recognize tumour cells and initiate rejection. But it has been unclear what makes these cells flock to cancerous tissues. Jan Böttcher and Caetano Reis e Sousa of the Francis Crick Institute in London and their colleagues found an answer: chemicals produced by natural-killer cells attract a class of dendritic cell to tumours in mice.

The researchers examined genes that tend to be active in natural-killer cells. Patients who had the highest levels of activity in those genes tended to live longer than patients showing lower gene activity. But the researchers also found that tumours can produce a compound called prostaglandin E2, which impairs the function of natural-killer cells and dendritic cells.

More Research Highlights...

Selected materials found in the gut contents of Tollund Man

The intestinal contents of a man killed in a prehistoric ritual (clockwise from upper left): barley, charred food that had been encrusted in a clay pot, flax seeds and sand. Credit: Peter Steen Henriksen, the Danish National Museum


The guts of a ‘bog body’ reveal sacrificed man’s final meal

Tollund Man, who lived more than 2,000 years ago, ate well before he was hanged.
Illustration of Earth with white lines showing the magnetic field.

Earth’s magnetic field (depicted as white lines in this artist’s impression) can be studied with observations from a constellation of commercial satellites. Credit: Mikkel Juul Jensen/Science Photo Library


Telecoms satellites’ new purpose: spying on Earth’s magnetic field

Clues to the forces generated by the planet’s core emerge from observations intended for satellite navigation.
Ageing of an artwork with graphene

After 130 hours of artificial ageing by visible light, the painting Triton and Nereid has lost some of the purple tint to the figures’ right, but a graphene film kept the bright pink at upper left undimmed. Credit: M. Kotsidi et al./Nature Nanotechnol.

Materials science

A graphene cloak keeps artworks’ colours ageless

A layer of carbon atoms preserves a painting’s vibrant hues — and can be applied and removed without damage.
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