Cancer cells exposed to high viscosity move better and their metastatic potential increases

The human body is made up of more than a billion cells that join to form the tissues and organs of our bodies. However, cells are dynamic structures that, using different techniques, move through the body to fulfil various functions, such as close wounds or carry nutrients to other tissues.

Understanding how cancer cells move and make decisions in these confined environments is important as 90% of cancer-related deaths involve metastases.

The labs of Dr. Konstantinos Konstantopoulos of Johns Hopkins University and of Dr. Miguel A. Valverde of UPF, together with teams from the USA and Canada have been working together over the past six years to unravel how cancer cells use ion movement through mechanically activated ion channels -stimuli that deform cell membranes- to adapt their movement to different mechanical stresses and environments. The results of this research have been published in two studies in the journals Nature and Nature Communications.

In these two new studies, the scientists asked themselves:

1) how cancer cells polarize ion transport mechanisms in the leading edge and trailing edge of the cells to move through narrow spaces; and

2) how cancer cells optimize movement when fluid viscosity is high.

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