Professional phagocytes of the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS), especially ubiquitous macrophages, are commonly thought to engulf or not a target based strictly on 'eat me' molecules such as Antibodies. The target might be a viable 'self' cell or a drug-delivering nanoparticle, or it might be a cancer cell or a microbe. 'Marker of Self' CD47 signals into a macrophage to inhibit the acto-myosin cytoskeleton that makes engulfment efficient. In adhesion of any cell, the same machinery is generally activated by rigidity of target surfaces, and recent results confirm phagocytosis is likewise driven by the rigidity typical of microbes and many synthetics. Basic insights are already being applied in order to make macrophages eat cancer or to delay nanoparticle clearance for better drug delivery and imaging.
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