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Three-dimensional force microscopy

New method of measuring forces of tumor cells as they migrate through connective tissue

Date:
December 7, 2015
Source:
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Summary:
Metastases occur when tumor cells detach from the primary tumor and migrate to distant sites through the connective tissue of organs. During this migration process, the tumor cells generate mechanical forces in order to overcome the resistance of the connective tissue or to change their shape so they can pass through very small pores. A new report describes a method for measuring these mechanical forces: three-dimensional force microscopy.
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Julian Steinwachs and colleagues at the Biophysics Group investigated tumour cell migration in artificial connective tissue made of collagen, which mimics the natural matrix of organs in terms of its chemical composition, structure and other material properties. The idea behind their method is simple: the researchers first measured the deformation of the connective tissue around the migrating cells. If the elasticity of the connective tissue is known, it can then be used like a spring scale to calculate the cell forces from the tissue deformations.

A particular challenge for the researchers was that connective tissue is initially soft when forces are weak, but stiffens at the level of forces generated by tumour cells. Tumour cells also used part of their forces to elongate into a spindle-like shape, allowing them to migrate at a remarkable speed even through very small pores of the connective tissue. In their next project, the researchers will apply this method to investigate differences in the cell forces between differently aggressive tumours.


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Materials provided by University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Julian Steinwachs, Claus Metzner, Kai Skodzek, Nadine Lang, Ingo Thievessen, Christoph Mark, Stefan Münster, Katerina E Aifantis, Ben Fabry. Three-dimensional force microscopy of cells in biopolymer networks. Nature Methods, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3685

Cite This Page:

University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. "Three-dimensional force microscopy: New method of measuring forces of tumor cells as they migrate through connective tissue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151207113852.htm>.
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. (2015, December 7). Three-dimensional force microscopy: New method of measuring forces of tumor cells as they migrate through connective tissue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 8, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151207113852.htm
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. "Three-dimensional force microscopy: New method of measuring forces of tumor cells as they migrate through connective tissue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151207113852.htm (accessed May 8, 2017).