Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Hard Going
08 July 2012

Hard Going

Do you prefer a hard or a soft mattress? Researchers have found that, given a choice, a common type of cell in our body – the fibroblast (pictured) – always goes for a firmer surface. Many of our cells migrate long distances to perform their duty. Whether healing wounds or turning a fertilised egg into an embryo, the stiffness of the surroundings affects their journey. This cell has been placed on a ‘soft’ suface of tiny pillars one millionth of a metre wide. Using temporary toes, it's feeling around to find a harder terrain (larger pillars on the right). Understanding the mores of cell migration will provide insight into how cancerous tumours can spread around the body (metastasis).

Written by Charles Harvey

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