Within our bodies many different types of cell are on the move; from immune cells finding and attacking infectious bacteria to others gelling together as we heal from wounds. Delicate threadlike filaments of the protein actin, line up like beads on a string forming long limb-like structures, known as lamellipodia (highlighted in blue) allowing our cells to motor around. Previously scientists thought these motor 'limbs' had a tree-like shape but as shown here they are actually straight. It is only with the technique known as cryo-electron tomography, which involves freezing live cells by plunging them into liquid ethane at 89 below zero, that scientists can view such a detailed snapshot of this microscopic world. Understanding a cell's true locomotion has far-reaching implications including knowledge of how bacterial and viral diseases develop, and how cancerous cells spread within the body.
Written by Claire Gilby
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.