Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Shaping Up
22 November 2012

Shaping Up

Our bodies contain roving cells which travel round helping with important tasks like wound healing. But these mobile cells can also contribute to human ailments including cancer and inflammation. To understand the process better researchers look for genes involved by observing their effect on cell movement. Genes which affect a cell’s mobility are likely to also affect its shape. Researchers used this reasoning to search for relevant genes. The bottom right window shows normal cells and in each of the other windows a different gene controlling movement has been ‘knocked down’ so it’s barely active. As predicted the cells all have different shapes. This approach was lucrative, as it identified many involved genes and novel therapeutic targets. Some of those genes have previously been implicated in disorders affecting brain function, such as Down’s Syndrome. This research has established a new link between cell shape and neurological disease.

Written by Julie Webb

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