Navigation Links
Microchoreography: Researchers use synthetic molecule to guide cellular 'dance'
Date:12/5/2012

Johns Hopkins researchers have used a small synthetic molecule to stimulate cells to move and change shape, bypassing the cells' usual way of sensing and responding to their environment. The experiment pioneers a new tool for studying cell movement, a phenomenon involved in everything from development to immunity to the spread of cancer.

"We were able to use synthetic molecules small enough to slip inside the cell and activate a chemical reaction controlling cell movement, bypassing most of the steps that usually lead up to this reaction," says Andre Levchenko, Ph.D., a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Institute for Cell Engineering, whose lab collaborated with that of Takanari Inoue, also from the school of medicine, on the study.

"As a result, we came up with a new model to describe one of the more fundamental and important cellular processes and a better understanding of cell movements critical for cancer progression and immune response." A report on the study was published Nov. 26 on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Like bacteria wiggling through a drop of pond water, many types of human cells move too, including fibroblasts, which patrol the skin and make repairs; immune cells, which rush to the site of infections; and nerve cells, which must travel great distances during development, Levchenko says. Similarly, in order to metastasize or spread, a tumor's cells must break off and migrate to a new part of the body.

Because of its role in cancer and immunity, these cellular dances are a hot area of research at present, Levchenko says. However, it is difficult to study the natural process for stimulating movement, in which signaling proteins bind to receptor molecules on the surface of the cell, setting off a complex chain reaction that ultimately propels the cell in a certain direction. In addition to the problem of complexity of the molecular interaction network, another difficulty is that cells decide which way to move by comparing the signal concentration on one side of the cell to the concentration on the other. "Stimulating a cell differently on one side than on the other side is not a trivial thing to do, because cells are incredibly small about one-tenth the width of a human hair," Levchenko explains.

To deal with the first problem, Benjamin Lin, a member of Levchenko's team who led the study, joined forces with Inoue's research group to take advantage of a novel method relying on a small molecule able to get between the fat molecules of the cell membrane and into the cell. Once inside, it would bind to two slightly modified proteins in the network that stimulates movement; the new complex of three molecules would in turn trigger the critical protein Rac, which falls somewhere in the middle of the choreographed chain reaction that leads to movement. By analyzing which enzymes in the chain reaction were ultimately activated by the synthetic molecule and which weren't, the researchers could tell whether they were downstream or upstream of Rac in the chain.

To create a fine enough biochemical gradient of the synthetic molecule to guide a cell in a specific direction, the researchers built a silicone-based chip with tiny liquid-dispensing channels running along the surface. When they loaded the channels with a solution containing the synthetic molecule, and placed human cells on the surface, they could stimulate one side of a cell more than the other, and induce it to move. "Neither synthetic molecules nor microfluidic devices had been used before in this particular way, and the results exceeded all our expectations," says Levchenko. "The cells responded very dramatically, moving in the direction we specified, and changing their shapes."

In addition to providing researchers with powerful new tools for studying cell movement, the experiment is a step forward for the budding field of synthetic biology. "If a researcher decides to grow new tissue for transplantation, it could be useful to have a cue that enforces cell migration and assembly," Levchenko says.


'/>"/>
Contact: Vanessa McMains
vmcmain1@jhmi.edu
410-502-9410
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
2. UC Santa Barbara researchers discover genetic link between visual pathways of hydras and humans
3. Researchers attempt to solve problems of antibiotic resistance and bee deaths in one
4. UNH researchers find African farmers need better climate change data to improve farming practices
5. Ottawa researchers to lead world-first clinical trial of stem cell therapy for septic shock
6. Researchers uncover molecular pathway through which common yeast becomes fungal pathogen
7. Researchers print live cells with a standard inkjet printer
8. Columbia Engineering and Penn researchers increase speed of single-molecule measurements
9. Researchers reveal how a single gene mutation leads to uncontrolled obesity
10. Researchers discover novel therapy for Crohns disease
11. New paper by Notre Dame researchers describes method for cleaning up nuclear waste
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Microchoreography: Researchers use synthetic molecule to guide cellular 'dance'
(Date:12/15/2016)... Dec. 15, 2016  There is much more to ... starting the engine. Continental will demonstrate the intelligence of ... Vegas . Through the combination of the keyless ... and biometric elements, the international technology company is opening ... and authentication. "The integration of biometric elements ...
(Date:12/12/2016)...  Researchers at Trinity College, Dublin, are opening ... the material with Silly Putty. The mixture (known as ... to sense pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and even ... The research team,s findings were published Thursday ... http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6317/1257 ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... , Dec. 8, 2016  Singulex, Inc., the ... Counting technology, entered into a license and supply agreement ... science. The agreement provides Singulex access to Thermo Scientific ... Europe is used to diagnose systemic bacterial ... States to aid in assessing the risk ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/16/2017)...  Eurofins Genomics today announced the expansion of its ... receive their primers in a shorter turnaround time, without ... with other providers. Express oligos are available for anyone ... no additional fee. Researchers use the oligos ... sequencing, genotyping, site-directed mutagenesis, and cloning. Often, they are ...
(Date:1/13/2017)... ... January 13, 2017 , ... ... containing an organic compound called fulvic acid that farms, greenhouses and hydroponics operations ... grow cannabis are among the fastest growing segments of customers using this high ...
(Date:1/12/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... January 12, ... ... disposable devices with short response times capable of performing routine electrochemical biosensing ... disposable screen-printed electrodes provide fast, sensitive detection and quantification of various analytes ...
(Date:1/12/2017)... , January 12, 2017 A new report published by Allied ... - Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2014-2022," projects that the global in vitro ... growing at a CAGR of 15.07% during the forecast period. ... ... ...
Breaking Biology Technology: