Skip to main content

Plithotaxis: how crowds of cells find their way

By 23 de May de 2011November 18th, 2020No Comments
< Back to news

Plithotaxis: how crowds of cells find their way

Processes like tissue regeneration and cancer metastasis rely on groups of cells moving long distances without losing their cohesiveness, but how they do this has remained unknown. Now researchers from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) –located at the Barcelona Scientific Park– and Harvard University have solved the mystery and unveiled a brand new phenomenon in biology.

In the journal Nature Materials (doi:10.1038/nmat3036), the scientists describe their newly discovered principle, plithotaxis, in which migrating cells pull on each other in a very disordered yet effective manner to reach their common goal: the movement of the crowd as a whole. “Our findings show that each cell in a group performs a wild and chaotic dance of its own that, while appearing random, contributes to the intended direction of the movement and is innately collective,” explains IBEC researcher Xavier Trepat.

Xavier and his collaborators in the United States, Dhananjay Tambe, C. Corey Hardin and Jeffrey Fredberg, used a method they developed called Monolayer Stress Microscopy (MSM) to look at the mechanical forces exerted at cell-cell junctions in migrating groups. “Newton taught us that the motion of any object cannot be understood except in the context of forces,” explains Xavier. “Cells are no exception.”

More information