New type of cell movement discovered

Sep 1, 2014

By Science Daily

For decades, researchers have used petri dishes to study cell movement. These classic tissue culture tools, however, only permit two-dimensional movement, very different from the three-dimensional movements that cells make in a human body.

In a new study from the University of Pennsylvania and National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, scientists used an innovative technique to study how cells move in a three-dimensional matrix, similar to the structure of certain tissues, such as the skin. They discovered an entirely new type of cell movement whereby the nucleus helps propel cells through the matrix like a piston in an engine, generating pressure that thrusts the cell’s plasma membrane forward.

“Our work elucidated a highly intriguing question: how cells move when they are in the complex and physiologically relevant environment of a 3-D extracellular matrix,” said Hyun (Michel) Koo, a professor in the Department of Orthodontics at Penn’s School of Dental Medicine. “We discovered that the nucleus can act as a piston that physically compartmentalizes the cell cytoplasm and increases the hydrostatic pressure driving the cell motility within a 3-D matrix.”

Koo worked with lead author Ryan Petrie and senior author Kenneth Yamada, both of the National Institutes of Health’s NIDCR, on the study, which is published this week inScience.

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