Sumary of New study provides clues to decades-old mystery about cell movement:
- A new study, led by University of Minnesota Twin Cities engineering researchers, shows that the stiffness of protein fibers in tissues, like collagen, are a key component in controlling the movement of cells.
- Directed cell movement, or what scientists call “cell contact guidance,” refers to a phenomenon when the orientation of cells is influenced by the alignment of fibers within soft tissues.
- Cells obviously don’t have eyes to sense where they are going, so understanding the mechanisms for how they align their movement with the fibers is considered by researchers to be a final frontier in controlling cell migration.
- And research shows that when cancer cells migrate away from solid tumors to spread throughout the body, they’re following tracks of a line of fibers.
- In more recent years, researchers have found that contact guidance is the underlying cellular mechanism by which they can make engineered tissues for regenerative medicine to regrow, repair, or replace damaged or diseased cells, organs, or tissues.
- “Even though we use cell contact guidance for many processes in my lab to engineer tissues to mimic heart valves and blood vessels, the signal that induces the cell movement in an aligned fiber network has been unclear to us all of these years,” said Tranquillo, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor.
- “What we found is that when we cross-linked the fibers (connecting them at intersections) and increased the difference in the stiffness in the two directions, but kept all the other factors the same, the cells aligned better.
- This is evidence that a directional difference in mechanical resistance of the fiber network influences cell orientation and movement.