Yearning to Connect: Nerve Cells Reach for One Another

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Stephanie Gupton
Gertler Lab, Koch Institute
"Super-resolution" fluorescence micrograph

Cancers are very good plagiarists.  In order to perform complex, destructive tasks, they borrow mechanisms from healthy cells.  To achieve rapid growth, for example, many cancer cells reactivate genes normally involved in embryo development.

Here, Stephanie Gupton captures normal nerve cells extending cellular projections that they will use to connect with other cells.  This process is facilitated by the proteins actin (red) and mena (green).  Metastatic cancer cells often adapt these same processes to mobilize and invade healthy tissues.  Stephanie and her colleagues in the Gertler Lab study nerve cells like these in order to better understand how cancer cells grow, move and spread.

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Stephanie Gupton explains how and why she captured this image of developing nerve cells.