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 Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton 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: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>