Most normal cells in our body don’t usually go for a stroll. Certain types do but they are tightly controlled. Cancer cells, however, frequently hijack the movement mechanism allowing them to escape into the blood and grow anew elsewhere (metastasis). Akin to stretching your legs before a walk, there are early warning signs a cell will move. Cramming 25 minutes into five seconds, time-lapse microscopy of a single stomach cancer cell shows the almost immediate effect. After adding a specific ‘get going’ signal (at one-second in this video), the cell’s edges begin to spread outwards, ruffling finger-like extensions. Common to all sauntering cells, these ‘fidgety’ areas contain actin (stained red), but lack keratin (in green) – two scaffolding proteins which coordinate movement. But cancers don't all move to the same start signal. These kinds of experiments help to spot cancers that move on this cue, where wanderlust-blocking drugs can succeed.
Written by Claire Worrall
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.