Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

Cell-Mimicking Microchambers
19 April 2012

Cell-Mimicking Microchambers

Scientists often mimic microscopic environments to facilitate the study of cell biology. To study how cells develop and divide, microscopic chambers can be a useful tool. The microchamber pictured here (using electron microscopy) is 25 times more slender than a human hair. Built from layers of gold its sides are coated with a protein called dynein. Microtubules [the tiny hollow rods that help to maintain a cell’s structure] can be grown in these chambers. The rods assemble, lengthen, then reach the wall, where their ends are ’captured’ by dynein. On point of contact their growth reverses, though they remain attached as they pull away. All this pushing and pulling helps the cell to position its contents. Effective cellular organisation facilitates fundamental processes like cell division, which replenishes cells in our body.

Written by Jenny Gimpel

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