For better and for worse, human health depends on a cell's motility the ability to crawl from place to place. In every human body, millions of cells are crawling around doing mostly good deeds though if any of those crawlers are cancerous, watch out.
"This is not some horrible sci-fi movie come true but, instead, normal cells carrying out their daily duties," said Florida State University cell biologist Tom Roberts. For 35 years he has studied the mechanical and molecular means by which amorphous single cells purposefully propel themselves throughout the body in amoeboid-like fashion absent muscles, bones or brains.
Meanwhile, human cells don't give up their secrets easily. In the body, they use the millions of tiny filaments found on their front ends to push the front of their cytoskeletons forward. In rapid succession the cells then retract their rears in a smooth, coordinated extension-contraction manner that puts inchworms to shame. Yet take them out of the body and put them under a microscope and the crawling changes or stops.
But now Roberts and his research team have found a novel way around uncooperative human cells.
In a landmark study led by Roberts and conducted in large part by his then-FSU postdoctoral associate Katsuya Shimabukuro, researchers used worm sperm to replicate cell motility in vitro in this case, on a microscope slide.
Doing what no other scientists had ever successfully done before, Shimabukuro disassembled and reconstituted a worm sperm cell, then devised conditions to promote thecell's natural pull-push crawling motions even in the unnatural conditions of a laboratory. Once launched, the reconstituted machinery moved just like regular worm sperm do in a natural setting giving scientists an unprecedented opportunity to watch it move.
Roberts called his former postdoc's signal achievement "careful, clever work" and work it did, making possible new, revealing images of cell mot
|Contact: Thomas A. Roberts|
Florida State University