Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Shape Shifters
14 September 2012

Shape Shifters

All 50-100 trillion cells in our body are tiny contortionists that can change shape on the outside by rearranging themselves on the inside. It’s a trick that fascinates scientists, who coax cells into changing shape in laboratory conditions to study how their internal structures move around and reconnect which may hold clues to the cause of certain diseases including cancer. Here, we see a cell taken from a human retina that has been persuaded using a new technique, to change from round to tear-drop shape. The cell, marooned on a repellent surface, has a precision pulse-laser aimed close to it. Intense heat destroys the surface but leaves the cell unharmed and free to spread along the paths etched by the laser beam.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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