Tumor cell expansion challenges current physics
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IMAGE: Breast cancer cells attached to a surface rich in collagen. The actin cytoskeleton can be seen in green, coated with active myosin (ppMLC) in red, and the cell-cell junctions (E-cadherin)… view more 

Credit: X. Trepat/IBEC

A malignant tumor is characterized by its ability to spread around its surroundings. To do so, tumor cells stick to the surrounding tissue (mainly collagen) and use forces to propel. The journal Nature Physics published today a study by a team led by Xavier Trepat, ICREA researcher at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and lecturer at the Department of Biomedicine University of Barcelona (UB), and Jaume Casademunt, professor of Physics at the UB, reveals the forces these tumor cells use to spread. The relation between these forces and the cell movement goes beyond current physical laws.

Researchers put breast tumor cells on a surface rich in collagen and observed how these expanded. Thanks to the technology Trepat’s group developed, these allowed them measuring the physical forces that were used by these cells during the process, which has not been observed so far. With these methods, they saw the tumor spreading depends on a competition between forces: cells stick to each other

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