Cellular markers are the internal and external features of a cell, which can be used to identify the cell itself or specific compounds within it. All cells express both extracellular markers embedded in the plasma membrane, and intracellular molecules within the cytoplasm and organelles. These unique characteristics can be used to identify and characterise specific cell types.
Within the body, immune cells frequently use the unique set of biomolecules in the plasma membrane of the cell to communicate and trigger an immune response. Antigens are cell surface markers, with complimentary antibodies allowing specific cells to be marked. The innate immune system relies on these specific cellular markers to recognise of self from non-self, this recognition allows for the destruction of pathogens whilst preventing the unintended digestion of self cells.
Cell markers have been widely used in laboratories as a research tool, but are ever-increasingly being recognised for their importance and potential in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Specific cellular markers can be used in a range of medical treatments, such as aiding in the identification and targeting of cancer cells during chemotherapy, and vaccines using antibodies to match specific molecular structure of target antigens, inducing the adaptive immune system to form memory cells.
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