“What kills most cancer patients is metastasis,” says Stephanie Fraley, Johns Hopkins University, USA, who works with Denis Wirtz, investigating the movement of cells in three dimensions.
The team coated glass slides with layers of collagen-enriched gel several mm thick which formed a cross-linked network, mimicking the natural extracellular matrix scaffold upon which cells grow. They used an inverted confocal microscope and displacement of beads embedded in the gel to view the cells.
They found when a cell moves along a 2-D surface, the underside is in constant contact with the surface, so large and long-lasting focal adhesions can be formed. Cells moving in 3-D environments, however, only make brief contacts with the network of collagen fibers surrounding them.
Because loss of adhesion and enhanced cell movement are hallmarks of cancer, the team’s findings could radically alter the way cells are cultured for drug studies and reveal new cancer targets.
- A distinctive role for focal adhesion proteins in three-dimensional cell motility
S. I. Fraley, Y. Feng, R. Krishnamurthy, D.-H. Kim, A. Celedon, G. D. Longmore, D. Wirtz
Nat. Cell Biol. 2010, 12, 598 – 604.