Cells: the ultimate driving machines

Anand Asthagiri from the chemical engineering department sees cells as microscopic machines. He compares the cell to a BMW: “It’s  the ultimate driving machine, but how do you drive it? How do you get behind the wheel and make it go where you want it to go? ” He is attempting to answer this question in a number of ways. In one particular approach, Asthagiri and his team design environments with adhesive material formed into micropatterns. The cells move along these adhesive areas in the presence of growth factors, which cause them to deploy various mechanisms that result in a kind of crawling process. These crawling cells moving along the micropattern as if it were a pre-determined traffic route. Below are four videos from his most recent research article that show different kinds of cell motility strategies. For more on Asthagiri’s work check out this story in the News@Northeastern.

Be sure to watch all four, they’re very short and get better as you move down the page!

Here is a cell moving along a stripe-shaped adhesive micropattern:


This is a different cell motility strategy than the adhesive micropattern approach. Here, molecules that attract cells (chemoattractants) are spread over the area in a gradient, ranging from low concentration to high concentration. Here the cell is moving across that gradient toward the area of higher concentration:


Here is a cell moving along a teardrop-shaped micropattern:


Here is a cell moving aross a spear-shaped micropattern (with an exciting event about halfway through):


Reprinted with permission from Anand Asthagiri. Copyright 2012 American Chemical Society