Do you prefer a hard or a soft mattress? Researchers have found that, given a choice, a common type of cell in our body – the fibroblast (pictured) – always goes for a firmer surface. Many of our cells migrate long distances to perform their duty. Whether healing wounds or turning a fertilised egg into an embryo, the stiffness of the surroundings affects their journey. This cell has been placed on a ‘soft’ suface of tiny pillars one millionth of a metre wide. Using temporary toes, it's feeling around to find a harder terrain (larger pillars on the right). Understanding the mores of cell migration will provide insight into how cancerous tumours can spread around the body (metastasis).
Written by Charles Harvey
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.