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Visualize mechanical interactions of Cancer Cells

Cells interact with their environment. Not only on the base of chemical signals, but also by sensing and modifying mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix. The research goal of Dr. Bo Sun’s group at Oregon State University is to understand such interactions. One of their tools is visualization of matrix properties with a TCS SPE confocal microscope.

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Fatal Growth

Cancer is considered as an uncontrolled proliferation of cells that became deficient in growth regulation. A typical behavior of malignant cells when metastasizing, is the induction of nourishing features in the target tissue. This is strikingly similar to events during implantation of a fertilized ovum in placental mammals (like humans) and is used to explain the restriction of malignant tumors in this group of organisms [1].

Modifications of tissue, like during growth, maturation, senescence and during implantation of a fertilized ovum, involve complex alterations in the extracellular matrix ECM. The ECM is anything macromolecular outside the cells in tissues. It is not just some ‘glue’ that stick cells together but a well-regulated network of various components that ensure proper communications and functioning of the cells involved. It seems therefore to be one of the relevant factors when trying to understand genesis and proliferation of cancer [2].

Bidirectional Feedback

Bo Sun’s group investigates the mechanical interactions of carcinoma cells growing in a threedimensional gel-matrix and compares visual findings with a computational model [3].

On one direction of the feedback, carcinoma cells remodel ECM by applying cellular traction forces. When cells are spatially close, they can remodel ECM significantly in between them compared to the other regions. Highly aligned and densified collagen bundles in the region between cells have higher stiffness along the bundle direction. Then, following the other direction of the feedback, the remodeled matrix can regulate cellular dynamics such as protrusion and migration. To study this bidirectional feedback, the TCS SPE confocal system is used to image real-time cellular dynamics at the molecular level.

A User´s Voice

“High precision, robust technique and easy-to-use software is what we have always looked for. Leica Microsystems´ TCS SPE confocal will become our workhorse for routine research.”

Dr. Markus Dürrenberger, Microscopy Center (ZMB), University of Basel. Basel, Switzerland