This image, submitted by Russell McConnell in the Gertler Lab at the Koch Institute, shows neurons from a brain tumor.
Russell McConnell, Frank Gertler
Koch Institute at MIT
Rapid growth and the ability to divide indefinitely make cancer cells a unique tool in fundamental biology research. In this experiment, cells derived from a brain tumor grow on a soft, flexible material that mimics the mechanical environment of the brain and spine.
Under these conditions, the axons do not branch, but instead form extensive, thread-like structures well suited for long-range connections between cells. Researchers continue to study how mechanical signals affect the shape and dynamic behavior of neurons during development and injury repair.