Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Modeling cell division : How a cell interacts with its microenvironment

Division is a key step in the life of cells and involves complex dynamic interplay between a large number of molecular components. CNRS biologists at the Institut Curie and theoretical physicists of the Max Planck Institute in Germany have devised a theoretical model of cell division of great predictive value.

They have used microtechnology to study individual cell divisions as their environment changes. Based on observations of a great many cells, the researchers have devised a theoretical model that predicts the orientation of cell division. The model, which is reported in the 24 May 2007 issue of Nature, is based on calculation of the forces exerted on the mitotic spindle within the cell, and describes how cells divide normally and what happens when something goes awry. The model shows that certain configurations of the microenvironment induce asymmetric cell division. Once applied to tissues, the model will enable diagnoses to be refined, by describing the abnormal division of diseased cells.

Division is an essential stage in the life of all cells: it is involved in growth of the organism, repair of wounds or infections, and regular renewal of cells. At any given moment, 250 000 million cells are dividing in our bodies. Each of these cells has a very precisely defined location, which is essential to maintaining the shape of tissues and organs. Constraints imposed by other cells—the environment—influence the division and positioning of daughter cells.

Manuel Théry in the CNRS team of Michel Bornens has developed an original approach which he is now pursuing at the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique in Grenoble(1), to study how a cell’s surroundings affect its division. A method called micropatterning is used to modulate the cell’s environment and observe its response, by imposing a given contour on the cell while giving it different adhesion zones, as if it were surrounded by other cells. This reproduces the spatial information that a cell is likely to receive within its tissue.

The CNRS team of Michel Bornens at the Institut Curie and the theoretical physics group of Frank Jülicher, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany, have joined forces to use this microtechnology to model cell division. They have measured the orientations of thousands of cell divisions and used their findings to propose a mechanical model of the orientation of the mitotic spindle, an ephemeral cellular structure present only during cell division, based on the activation of motor molecules at the cell surface. These motors, which are found where the cell contacts its microenvironment, pull on the astral microtubules and orient the spindle. This mechanism aligns the cell’s plane of division with the geometry of its environment.

The researchers have also shown that certain spatial configurations of the cellular microenvironment induce asymmetric orientations of the spindle. Whether or not cell division is symmetric is primordial in the fate of the resulting daughter cells. These results could therefore have interesting applications in the control of the symmetric or asymmetric divisions of stem cells in vitro.

Only microtechnologies such as the micropatterning technique can be used to study the individual “sensitivity” of cells and to derive laws to predict the distribution of cell division orientations, without knowing the details of the molecular mechanisms involved. These laws apply to an embryo or to an organism that is undergoing renewal. In time it may prove possible to describe the mechanics brought into play during development. This may not only result from but also actively regulates the genetics underpinning tissue growth.

It is now possible to quantify precisely a cell’s capacity to respond to its environment, and to identify cells that behave “abnormally”, like cancer cells. Once this model can be applied to tissues, physicians will be able to refine their diagnosis by gathering information on the way division is perturbed in diseased cells.

This work illustrates the value of exchanging skills and know-how, and shows how the bringing together of researchers from different backgrounds, which has long been central to the Institut Curie’s approach, generates a dynamic environment conducive to creativity. In particular, one of the great originalities of the Institut Curie has been to develop collaborations between physicists and biologists. This interface affords another vision of the world of the living cell, and promises much in our understanding of the complexity of living organisms.

(1) Manuel Théry is currently at the Laboratoire Biopuces, in the Institut de Recherches en Technologies et Sciences pour le Vivant (iRTSV) of the Commissariat à l’ Energie Atomique in Grenoble.

Catherine Goupillon | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>