New understanding of cell movement could spark new cancer treatment research

A new study co-authored by HSPH’s Jeffrey Fredberg sheds new light on the way that cells collectively move within a tissue during embryonic development, wound healing, and the spread of cancerous tumors. As layers of migrating cells move, they blend and flow collectively. Each cell, however, remains fixed and solid-like for short periods, crowded by the presence of its neighbors. The researchers compared this quality to the movement of glass, or as Fredberg told The Harvard Crimson, jostling fans trying to get into a crowded stadium.

The study, which appeared online February 14, 2011, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could open new avenues of research in areas such as cancer treatment. Therapies could be targeted to slow down the migration of tumors, rather than reduce their density, co-author Thomas E. Angelini, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida, told The Crimson.

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HSPH Researchers Unlock How Growing Cells Move Together, Providing Insight into Range of Biomechanical Processes from Tumor Formation to Wound Healing (Harvard Public Health NOW)

Clear as Glass (Harvard Public Health Review)