From birth until death, our cells migrate: nerve cells make their vital connections, embryonic cells move to the proper places to form organs, immune cells zero in to destroy pathogenic organisms, and cancer cells metastasize, spreading deadly disease through the body. Scientists studying these migrations didnt know how cells determined where to go. Until now.
A Burnham Institute study has identified a fragment of a protein that senses chemicals that induce a cell to move into the right direction. Guided by this fragment, the molecular machinery needed for cell movement begins accumulating at the leading edge, or front of a cell in response to a variety of chemical messengers, and begins the directed process of migration. The study, led by associate professor and Burnham Cancer Center Acting Director Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., appears in the August issue of Nature Cell Biology.
The finding is the first to determine the molecule responsible for internally choreographing directed cell migration. The experiments were conducted in several widely used laboratory models, but the molecule exists in nearly all animals, from roundworms to mammals, and likely has a conserved function throughout species. Knowing exactly what triggers cellular migration can help develop treatments that halt cancer metastasis and immune disorders like arthritis and asthma.
Nancy Beddingfield | EurekAlert!
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