Cells ‘Feel’ Their Shape

Photo via flickr by PROYECTO AGUA**

Johns Hopkins scientists, working with the simplest of organisms, have discovered the molecular sensor that lets cells not only “feel” changes to their neat shapes, but also to remodel themselves back into ready-to-split symmetry. In a study published September 15 in Current Biology, the researchers show that two force-sensitive proteins accumulate at the sites of cell-shape disturbances and cooperate first to sense the changes and then to resculpt the cells. The proteins — myosin II and cortexillin I — monitor and correct shape changes in order to ensure smooth division.

“What we found is an exquisitely tuned mechanosensory system that keeps the cells shipshape so they can divide properly,” says Douglas N. Robinson, Ph.D., an associate professor of Cell Biology, Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Faulty cell division can put organisms, including people, on the pathway to diseases such as cancer, Robinson notes, and a better understanding of how cells respond to mechanical stress on their shapes could present new targets for both diagnosing and treating such diseases.

The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and the National Science Foundation.

via Science Daily

In a conversation with Sputnik Observatory, biologist Donald Ingber explains why shape/structure is important to developing healthy tissues.

I don’t think we’ll ever see no disease, but we’ll see new types of therapies. Maybe ways of predicting diagnosing and reversing, rebooting, types of treatments for disease rather than having to cut out and replace with artificial parts. I think understanding how cells and tissues are built and how mechanical forces are into play, how structure contributes to healing and development of tissues, will allow us to develop artificial materials that truly have the physical properties and the biochemical processing properties in one that would smoothly mesh with our natural materials as opposed to right now where you have a hunk of titanium or artificial plastic or polymers that you put in and there’s a compliance, a flexibility mismatch – they’re basically a dumb material next to an incredibly brilliant, multifunctional material. So I think that, at one level, understanding complexity, physical and information processing complexity, will allow us to build biologically-inspired materials that will interface with the body and be able to, for example, create the right physical and chemical environment so that stem cells that are already in your body don’t have to be taken out, grown up and put some place – they give the right cues to say, come here and multiply and then turn into this cell type and in this pattern.

One response to “Cells ‘Feel’ Their Shape”

  1. b13 says:

    Very interesting. Medicine at a molecular level.

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