Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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15 April 2012

Chemical Attraction

Sustain an injury and cells will migrate rapidly to repair the wound. Other times, however, cell migration is not a force for good, such as when cells from a tumour head out to colonise body tissues. Scientists study cell migration in the hope of helping healing and curtailing cancer. It was thought that cells needed a distant source of attractive chemicals to migrate. However, when cells are placed in a tiny maze of channels full of such chemicals, they don’t just sit still, they find the shortest route out (as shown in this video). It turns out that the cells (shown in green and unstained) gobble up the chemicals in their immediate vicinity and then follow their noses to more. The small amount of fluid in the maze means cells deplete the chemicals rapidly and are drawn to the exit (top) where more are available.

Written by Ruth Williams

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