Cells take on dual identities

Cells migrate to different tissues for a variety of reasons, including organ development, tissue repair and the spread of cancer. Researchers in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis have found unexpected activity in the nucleus of healthy cells that provides new insight into cell mechanics.

Amit Pathak, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, working with Carly Krull, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, and Haiyi Li, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering in 2022, found that when they gave the cancer drug Leptomycin B to healthy cells, the cells stopped growing, but several competing genes in their nuclei became active. The research was published in eLife.

“All of a sudden, everything is happening in the nucleus,” Pathak said. “The factors that slow down the cells, the factors that make the cells faster, the factors that make the cells cohesive and the factors that generate forces in cells all became active. All of these factors are normally competing with each other, and they all became active together.”

Read more on the McKelvey School of Engineering website.

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