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Contact: Catherine Hockmuth
University of California - San Diego

Illustration of Cell Migration

Caption: A team of biologists and engineers at UC San Diego applied advanced mathematical tools to answer a basic question in cell biology about how cells move and discovered that the mechanism looks very similar to walking. Starting with an amoeboid Dictyostelium cell, the team found the cell periodically forms and breaks adhesions mainly under two "feet," and generates the traction forces (indicated by the heatmap) that propel them forward by the coordinated action of contractile proteins. The researchers then applied the same technology to study human white blood cells, which are responsible for moving to sites of infection and inflammation to repair tissue, and found the same "walking" mechanism at work. Their discovery, published March 17 in the Journal of Cell Biology, is an important advance toward developing new pharmacological strategies to treat chronic inflammatory diseases, which are caused by the uncontrolled recruitment of white blood cells to the site of inflammation.

Credit: Image courtesy of the Journal of Cell Biology and 2014 Bastounis et al.

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Related news release: Study finds that fast-moving cells in the human immune system walk in a stepwise manner

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