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Immune system cells behave like animal predators, not robots, study finds


From “T Cells ‘Hunt’ Parasites Like Animal Predators Seek Prey, a New Study Reveals”,(ScienceDaily, May 27, 2012), we learn,

By pairing an intimate knowledge of immune-system function with a deep understanding of statistical physics, a cross-disciplinary team at the University of Pennsylvania has arrived at a surprising finding: T cells use a movement strategy to track down parasites that is similar to strategies that predators such as monkeys, sharks and blue-fin tuna use to hunt their prey.

nterestingly, T cells are not alone in employing a Lévy-type strategy to find their targets. Several animal predators move in a similar way — with many short-distance movements interspersed with occasional longer-distance moves — to find their prey. The strategy seems particularly common among marine predators, including tuna, sharks, zooplankton, sea turtles and penguins, though terrestrial species like spider monkeys and honeybees may use the same approach to locate rare resources.

This parallel with animal predators also makes sense because parasites, like prey species, have evolved to evade detection.

“Many pathogens know how to hide, so T cells are not able to move directly to their target,” Hunter said. “The T cell actually needs to go into an area and then see if there’s anything there.”

Despite this, there is no intelligence behind nature, immanent or transcendent. Remember that, schoolkids. (Rince, repeat.)

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