These cells are trapped – stuck inside tiny square ‘rooms’ each 100,000 times smaller than a prison cell. In order to escape, they’re going to need some help from the outside. Each cell (with its membrane highlighted in green and nucleus in turquoise) has been injected with different amounts of magnetic nanoparticles: tiny pieces of metal highlighted in blue. At the flick of a switch, the particles tug the imprisoned cells towards magnets on the outside. The cell in the top right, which received the strongest magnetic shove, has developed filopodia – spiky ‘legs’ which show the cell is about to slither for freedom. Tiny man-made tools may soon be used to guide the movement of cells in our bodies, too. A helpful nudge in the right direction might one day lead stem cells into place in a damaged organ or put the brakes on cancer cells, all by remote control.
Written by John Ankers
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.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.