See you later, inchworm

By • Published: July 6th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The squeamish among us may find the sight of blood rather… creepy.

Those instincts may be right on, scientifically speaking. Infection-fighting white blood cells in particular are more than a little creepy. They’re crawly, too.

Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel took a hard look at how white blood cells get to sites of infection or injury.

The discovered the proverbial worm in the apple.

Or, to more precise, the found the millipede in the blood vessel.

White blood cells may actually crawl through your blood vessels to get to where they need to be, creating little protruding legs that cling to cells that line the blood vessel walls.

The current creature analogy to explain white blood cell movement is the inchworm. Scientists think the cells fold in the middle and push themselves forward.

The new millipede paradigm will likely make us forget the inchworm model ever existed.

Researchers believe the tiny limb-like protrusions of the white blood cell attach and detach themselves from partner cells lining the blood vessel, allowing the cells to scurry rather than scoot.

But there’s more.

When the scientists used an electron microscope to examine the protrusions, they saw the legs actually “digging” into the vessel lining, perhaps picking up environmental signals that direct them to damaged areas.

Who needs an iPod with a global positioning system? These guys get all the info they need from pseudopods.

We wonder if Steve Jobs ever thought of that?