Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Blisters, Fingers, Feet

New computer techniques allow cells to be simultaneously studied inside and out

17 August 2018

Blisters, Fingers, Feet

There's so much going on inside living cells that scientists often face a choice – study the genes and proteins that produce chemical signals on the inside, or focus on changes in growth, movement or shape (morphology) from the outside. A new set of computer techniques links the two approaches together, here using machine learning to spot changes on the surface of three cells, while keeping tabs on chemical signals or ‘pathways’ firing inside. Highlighted in bright colours, ball-like blebs appear like blisters on the surface of a human cancer cell (left), usually indicating imminent self-destruction. Filopodia are finger-like projections of a moving human lung cell (middle), while lamellipodia are ‘feet’ that help a cell from the immune system (right) crawl around sharing information during an infection. Such automated analysis will help cell biologists and clinicians to make sense of the vast amount of information revealed using sensitive light-sheet microscopy.

Written by John Ankers

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