Now playing -- Cell migration LIVE!

Jun 08, 2007

Johns Hopkins researchers have found a way to directly observe cell migration -- in real time and in living tissue. In a report in the June 5 issue of Developmental Cell, the scientists say their advance could lead to strategies for controlling both normal growth and the spread of cancer, processes that depend on the programmed, organized movement of cells across space.

“The stars of our live show are a cluster of fruit fly cells that literally crawl across the length of an egg chamber while it is maturing,” says Denise Montell, Ph.D., professor of Biological Chemistry and director of the Center for Cell Dynamics. “What these border cells are doing resembles what cancer cells do when they migrate from the main growth to other tissues.”

The historic problem, Montell says, is that it’s been impossible to watch this process inside the ovarian tissue –no microscope can do that – and worse, the cells stop moving if they’re outside the ovaries. In a years-long effort, Montell and her team figured out just what to feed these cells to keep them alive and doing their thing without their ovarian homes.

“We were stuck having to watch this through a series of still pictures and losing a lot of the story, “Montell says. “Now with real-time movies, we’re deciphering the nuances behind organized cell movement that should offer opportunities for hopefully regulating the process.”

Among the nuances identified is that just like migrating geese or a pack of bicyclists, individual border cells in the cluster each take turns as the “leader” during their journey across the egg chamber. Another discovery is that a protein called Kuzbanian is necessary to help border cells detach from the egg wall and begin their journey. “We used to think that Kuzbanian allowed border cells to squeeze themselves between other cells as they moved,” Montell says, “but only now do we understand the real reason cells couldn’t move. We can see them valiantly trying to detach from the wall but unable to pull away.”

Montell and her team tediously worked out a recipe for a liquid culture medium that gave the fly eggs the ability to grow outside ovaries. The list of ingredients included acidity , and a little bit of insulin.

Because many border cell proteins in flies have counterparts in humans, Montell’s studies should translate to a better understanding of clinically useful cell migrations, such as when immune cells move en masse to an open wound or cancer cells detach from a tumor to metastasize.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Could alien life cope with a hotter, brighter star?

Mar 24, 2014

The stars in the night sky shine in myriad hues and brightnesses—piercing blues, clean whites, smoldering crimsons. Every star has a different mass, the basic characteristic that determines its size, lifespan, ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.