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: Gut microbial mix relates to stages of blood sugar control

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New strategy to combat 'undruggable' cancer molecule

Jan 26, 2015

Three of the four most fatal cancers are caused by a protein known as Ras; either because it mutates or simply because it ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ras has proven an elusive target for ...

The year ahead in science

Jan 05, 2015

Some serious groundwork has been laid. Some amazing instruments are turning on. Some incredible destinations are in sight. If you ask us, 2015 is going to be an awesome year in science.

A look at North Korea's limited Internet capabilities

Dec 23, 2014

An hours-long Internet outage Tuesday in one of the world's least-wired countries was probably more inconvenient to foreigners than to North Korean residents, most of whom have never gone online. Even for wired Koreans south ...

Recommended for you

Gut microbial mix relates to stages of blood sugar control

10 hours ago

The composition of intestinal bacteria and other micro-organisms—called the gut microbiota—changes over time in unhealthy ways in black men who are prediabetic, a new study finds. The results will be presented Friday ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.