Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Bone Zipper
06 June 2012

Bone Zipper

Our bones are a mix of minerals, protein and cells. As you sit reading this, your bone matrix is being gobbled up and reshaped continuously. Bone-gobbling cells, or osteoclasts, are formed by the fusion of smaller cells called monocytes. Normally about ten or so merge into one, but in some bone diseases the process goes into overdrive creating gigantic bone-guzzling monster cells. Scientists have found that where the cell membranes (here fluorescing green) of neighbouring monocytes join, structural proteins (dyed red) in each cell come together to form a ‘zipper’. Understanding what regulates these zips will help researchers figure out why too many cells sometimes fuse and perhaps even how to unzip them.

Written by Ruth Williams

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