tool to study how cells move
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UNC Scientists Develop A Tool To Study How Cells Move

Why do cells move, and how do they move? Why do some cancerous cells move slowly compared to healthy cells? The answer is not that simple as it involves processes and tiny proteins that are difficult to study in real space and time. Klaus Hahn, Ph.D., and John Sondek, Ph.D. of the Department of Pharmacology at UNC, are trying to overcome this difficulty.

A way to study and map the intricacies of intercellular signaling like when, where, and how tiny parts of cells communicate to make cells move, has been created by them, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

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The study provides a new method for determining the precise movement mechanisms in healthy cells in real-time and how these mechanisms alter in cancer metastasis like disease states.

The signaling information within living cells can be mapped using their new tool. It can also measure how much each protein contributes to cell migration and other cell behaviors.

Microscopy tools developed in Klaus Hahn’s laboratory was used to develop this new tool. The fluorescent biosensors in these microscopy tools allowed the researchers to visualize several proteins at the same time. The research team then quantified how proteins regulate each other with the help of mathematical analytic methods developed at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

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How signaling networks regulate cellular processes like metastasis and cell migration and how they are wired together can be precisely understood using these tools. How these networks operate in healthy cells could be studied. This can enable researchers to compare the data from healthy cells to those during different health conditions like inflammation.

If we could understand how the cellular movements differ during different disease conditions, that could help develop better treatments for the faulty cells, while keeping the healthy cells safe.

The Human Frontiers in Sciences Program, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, UNC Lineberger, and the National Institutes of Health, funded this research that developed a tool to study how cells move.