MadSci Network: Cell Biology

Re: What are some every day things that can explain the way cells travel

Date: Mon Feb 11 17:27:35 2002
Posted By: Pamela Norton, faculty, Dept. of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Area of science: Cell Biology
ID: 1012981354.Cb

By cell travel, I assume that you mean movement of cells from place to 
place within the body. The most mobile cells are blood cells which are 
carried throughout your arteries and veins. However, in this situation, 
they are not moving on their own, the heart provides the force. Another 
example is during the healing of a wound. Specialized blood cells are 
attracted to the wound site by factors released locally. In addition, skin 
cells crawl in from adjacent regions to fill in the gap of damaged cells. 
To picture this crawling sort of movement, think of a tank; as the front 
treads reach ahead and attach to a new area, the back treads let go. 

The best studied examples of cell traveling, usually refered to as cell 
migration, occur during the development of an embryo. The movement of 
individual cells in embryos such as chick and frog can be watched with 
specialized microscopes. By interfering with normal cell migration, 
scientists have learned that there are proteins on the surfaces of cells 
that detect other molecules in the environment. These sensors allow the 
idividual cell to detect the presence of molecules that allow or prevent 
cell movement. This information is then communicated inside to the cells 
motor machinery, kind of like starting the car ignition and putting it in 
gear. The sensors then can help to adjust the speed and direction of 
travel, like the gas pedal and steering wheel.

I hope that these examples answer some of your questions. I have focused on 
animal cells. If you are thinking about plant cells, or molds or bacteria, 
you could try asking again.

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