Scientists in the US have developed a new method to help watch and explain how cells move around the body.
Tom Roberts and his research team, including postdoctoral associate Katsuya Shimabukuro from the Florida State University have been using worm sperm to replicate cell motility in vitro. It was chosen as worm sperm does not use molecular motor proteins to move, instead it shimmies by putting down and then tearing down its minute filaments.
They first disassembled and reconstituted the worm sperm cell and then placed it on a microscope slide to witness its pull-push crawling motions, despite the unnatural conditions. Describing the method discovery as "careful, clever work", cell biologist Mr Roberts went on to say that the finding provides revealing images of just how they crawl.
"Understanding how cells crawl is a big deal. The first line of defence against invading microorganisms, the remodelling of bones, healing wounds in the skin and reconnecting of neuronal circuits during regeneration of the nervous system – all depend on the capacity of specialised cells to crawl," he noted.
While Mr Roberts was delighted with the breakthrough, he did state that tumour cells have the same ability to crawl around the body and this is a big factor in the metastasis of malignancies.
"But we believe our achievements in this latest round of basic research could eventually aid in the development of therapies that target cell motility in order to interfere with or block the metastasis of cancer," he added.
Mr Roberts went on to say that the next move will be to see if their knowledge of worm sperm movement can now be applied to more conventional cells in the human body, including tumour cells.
Recently, research undertaken at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre allowed scientists to identify a specific molecule which changes how breast cancer cells move around, affecting their metastasis.