Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Motor Elements
01 February 2012

Motor Elements

Within our bodies many different types of cell are on the move; from immune cells finding and attacking infectious bacteria to others gelling together as we heal from wounds. Delicate threadlike filaments of the protein actin, line up like beads on a string forming long limb-like structures, known as lamellipodia (highlighted in blue) allowing our cells to motor around. Previously scientists thought these motor 'limbs' had a tree-like shape but as shown here they are actually straight. It is only with the technique known as cryo-electron tomography, which involves freezing live cells by plunging them into liquid ethane at 89 below zero, that scientists can view such a detailed snapshot of this microscopic world. Understanding a cell's true locomotion has far-reaching implications including knowledge of how bacterial and viral diseases develop, and how cancerous cells spread within the body.

Written by Claire Gilby

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