What we learned so far and the exciting science to come!

Lab Note #30
May 23, 2014
Despite the complications listed in the previous lab note, we are on track to learn some very exciting science from the Race!  We have seen that some modifications of the cellular “machinery” work better than others and surprisingly, that Dicty cells can be “doped” into moving as fast as HL60s, though at the expense of navigation.   

Cells navigate through the maze by following the chemical gradient created by diffusion of the attractant from the reservoir at the finish.  An analogy would be to placing freshly cooked bacon at the end of a maze and having a dog navigate its way to the finish by following the delicious bacon smell.  The winning cells of this year’s Race are akin to search dogs with enhanced smelling power.   These cells overexpressed a protein, Ric8, that amplifies the directional sensing response, making these cells extremely sensitive to the chemical gradient.  Check out their recent paper on this newly discovered protein   http://www.pnas.org/content/110/16/6424.long  

From a scientific standpoint, we have still much to learn from some of the innovative strategies teams have taken with their cells.  These include modifying the mechanical properties of cells to better squeeze through the narrow channels, using wilder strains of Dicty that have been less coddled (and mutated!) in the laboratory, and inhibiting the random motion of cells that may interfere with their directed migration.  It will be fascinating to see how these cells perform under optimal conditions.   Therefore, we are continuing to work with these teams to perform these experiments and more rigorously evaluate their clever strategies.   In our opinion (as nerdy scientists!), the fun of the race was just the beginning – the real gold lies in our upcoming publication, so stay tuned!
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