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The origins of immunity?

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12:20pm, August 20, 2007

When the going gets tough, social amoebas get together. Most of the time, these unusual amoebas live in the soil as single-celled organisms, but when food runs short, tens of thousands of them band together to form a sluglike multicellular cluster, which then slithers away in search of a more bountiful patch of dirt.

New research shows that, within this slug, specialized cells rove around vacuuming up invading bacteria and toxins, thus forming a kind of rudimentary immune system. The discovery could provide a molecular link between the bacteria-eating behavior of single-celled amoebas and similar behavior by cells of animals' immune systems.

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