The shape of almost every cell in our body depends on a complex network of microtubules (shown here in yellow and green). This cellular scaffold also provides tracks for a vital transport network, ensuring that the cell’s molecular work force gets to its destination on time. Problems ‘on the tube’ can contribute to heart and circulatory disease and cancer, and researchers are discovering why. Cells in this heart-shaped cluster (visualised using confocal microscopy) have been engineered to produce a newly identified protein that hitches onto the tubes. The protein (seen in red in the nucleus, and yellow on the microtubules) stabilises the network and speeds up transport. Without it, animals develop muscular dystrophy and struggle to maintain a regular heartbeat. Studying microtubule networks will help heart researchers understand the intricate workings of blood vessel cells and how they keep our hearts healthy.
Written by Caroline Cross
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