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Working towards a better understanding of the laws governing internal cell structure


Researchers at our institute are developing new strategies in order to study​ the laws governing internal cell structure.​​​
Published on 10 October 2007
Researchers at the Biochips Laboratory (curently Biomics team at the Large Scale Biology laboratory) have improved existing technology for micro-fabrication of adhesive single-cell patterns by modifying current "microcontact printing" techniques and developing new UV grafting techniques. The use of UV will make it possible to control the geometry of cell microenvironments while avoiding contact with the substrate. The obvious outcome will be the ability to design three-dimensional cell patterns.

These micro-tools can be used both to control the shape and adhesive pattern of individual cells and to highlight the laws governing the formation of intracellular structures. In collaboration with the Curie Institute in Paris and the Max Plank Institute in Dresden, Germany, the researchers published an article in the science journal Nature detailing their latest findings on some of the physical laws governing cell division. Although cultured cells show what appear to be random cell division orientation axes, in fact, the laws governing cell structure are actually hidden by the situational variability. These laws can be revealed through a high-precision examination of cellular microenvironment geometry and the reproducibility of cell behaviour under these conditions. By measuring the orientation axes of thousands of cell divisions, researchers were able to propose a mechanical model for the positioning of mitotic spindles based on the activation of molecular motors on the cell surface. These motors, located at contact points between the cell and its microenvironment, pull on astral microtubules thereby orienting the spindle. This mechanism enables cells to align the position of the division plane with their environmental geometry. The researchers also showed that some spatial configurations of the cellular microenvironment generate asymmetrical spindle orientation axes.

These findings could be usefully applied to in vitro control of symmetrical or asymmetrical stem cell divisions.

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