Most of your cells are like restless toddlers, unable to sit still. They shuffle around, constantly adjusting their position and shape. And this guides how they achieve their essential tasks. This moulding and movement relies on the coordinated action of actin (thin fibres that provide structure and direction, pink in the morphing cell pictured) and focal adhesions (blue). Like tiny suction pads, these adhesions grab hold to, and push off from, the surface cells sit on. Focal adhesions are essential to everyday cells, but are known to be enhanced in cancer cells spreading around the body. How adhesions form during initial cell spreading is not well known, but new research has revealed that they assemble in groups which then split into separate, mature units. The dynamic interactions between these units control their morphology, and understanding these mechanics may be the key to stopping wickedly wandering cells in their tracks.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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