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NK Cell Cytotoxicity at the Single Cell Level

Time: Fri 2020-09-18 09.00

Location: via Zoom, Du som saknar dator/datorvana kan kontakta verron@kth.seför information, (English)

Doctoral student: Ludwig Brandt , Science for Life Laboratory, SciLifeLab, Biofysik

Opponent: Professor Fredrik Bergh Thorén, Sahlgrenska Cancer Center, Göteborgs universitet, Göteborg

Supervisor: professor Björn Önfelt, Science for Life Laboratory, SciLifeLab

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Natural killer (NK) cells are innate immune cells with the ability to recognize and eliminate virally infected cells and cancer cells without prior sensitization. There is a functional heterogeneity between individual NK cells, where some NK cells are more efficient at killing cancer cells than others. Methods that allow studies of single NK cells are required to understand the functional differences and how they correlate with the activation and development status of the NK cell.

This thesis focuses on the development and implementation of microchip- based imaging of NK cells, which is covered in five papers. Paper I presents a microchip screening platform for assessment of the cytotoxic potential of individual NK cells, by confining single NK cells together with target cells in microwells, followed by microscopy screening over extended time periods and automated image analysis. In paper II, the microchip platform was applied to test the ability of a novel trispecific killer engager (TriKE) to mediate an NK cell-dependent immune response. The process of NK cell education was studied in paper III and for that the image analysis methods for the microchip platform was further developed, in order to reveal new insight into how the education process affects the cytotoxic function of single NK cells. In paper IV, a previously developed microchip assay was extended to study NK cell migration and cytotoxicity in a more in vivo-like 3D collagen matrix. Paper V shows how NK cells can eliminate platelets in the presence of anti-platelet antibodies.

In summary, this thesis covers the development and applications of time- lapse imaging using microwells for studying important NK cell functions in different settings. Understanding NK cell heterogeneity has the potential for improving e.g. cancer cell therapies.