Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A digital field guide to cancer cells

09.04.2015

Scientists are mapping the habits of cancer cells, turn by microscopic turn.

Using advanced technology and an approach that merges engineering and medicine, a Yale University-led team has compiled some of the most sophisticated data yet on the elaborate signaling networks directing highly invasive cancer cells. Think of it as a digital field guide for a deadly scourge.


Yale-led research is looking into the directional cues that influence cancer cells.

Credit: Yale University/Michael Helfenbein

"This is a very complex set of interactions and processes," said Andre Levchenko, a Yale systems biologist and biomedical engineer, and director of the Yale Systems Biology Institute. "The systems biology approach acknowledges that complexity by analyzing how cancer cells migrate together and separately in response to complex cues."

In a study published April 8 in the journal Nature Communications, Levchenko and his colleagues describe the intricate ways breast cancer cells respond to chemical cues in the human body. The idea is to determine which cues cause cancer cells to disperse and metastasize, how these cues are combined with other cues directing the invasion, and which cues hold sway when there are conflicting orders.

Until now, little has been known about how cells decide when and where to turn while traveling through the complex tissues. These cells often encounter contradictory directional cues -- begging the questions: Which cues are stronger, and in what situations?

In this study, researchers focused on several cues. One is a protein called Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), which acts as a strong, directional guidance signal to individual cancer cells. Another cue mediates a poorly understood phenomenon called "contact inhibition of locomotion" (CIL), in which cells act almost like bumper cars, stopping their forward motion on contact and moving away from each other.

Levchenko's team found that when both EGF and CIL signals act upon a breast cancer cell, the cell acts as a tiny computer, making decisions about which cue dominates. If the EGF cue is weak, the cell can turn around if it encounters another cell; if the EGF cue is strong enough, the two cells will travel together. The researchers unraveled the molecular network that allows the cells to follow these cues and make appropriate decisions. In particular, they found the critical role of proteins called ephrins in mediating the CIL cue. These proteins, also found in other cell types, allow breast cancer cells to be repelled from each other, while ignoring other cells, such as fibroblasts. This knowledge allowed the investigators to suppress CIL, so that even weak EGF inputs could lead to coordinated movement of many cells.

"We have shown that migrating cells prioritize certain cues in the presence of others and thus can switch their migration mode, depending on what they see from the environment," said first author Benjamin Lin, a postdoctoral associate in biomedical engineering at Yale.

Understanding the interplay of these signals may allow researchers to devise strategies for interfering with, or redirecting, cancer cells in motion. For example, if a traveling cancer cell received strong, artificial CIL cues so that its movement became less directed and invasive, and more chaotic, could that slow the onset of metastasis?

Historically, experiments on cancer cell movement have been unable to mimic the dynamic complexity of the human body. Now, using advanced biosensors and other technology, such experiments come much closer to replicating a realistic, biological environment.

"Scientists have studied quite well how individual cues affect cell migration. But in reality, cells are subject to multiple cues at the same time," said co-author Takanari Inoue, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University. "Our work is significant because we clearly demonstrated that cells do integrate multiple pieces of information and that the integration occurs at a place fairly upstream of the signal processing. I think we have been underestimating these cells' capability to integrate different cues."

###

Additional authors of the paper are Taofei Yin and Yi Wu of the University of Connecticut.

Media Contact

Jim Shelton
james.shelton@yale.edu
203-432-3881

 @yale

http://www.yale.edu 

Jim Shelton | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos
30.03.2017 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

An LED-based device for imaging radiation induced skin damage

30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>