Cell biology

Our cells even have tentacles

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So the little blobs aren’t nearly as helpless, let alone simple, as they have sometimes been made out to be. It’s quite the little world in there:

“These structures play a pivotal role in .. allowing cells to explore their environment, generate mechanical forces, perform chemical signaling, or convey signals via intercellular tunneling nano-bridges,” the researchers write in their paper.

“The dynamics of filopodia appear quite complex as they exhibit a rich behavior of buckling, pulling, length and shape changes. Here, we show that filopodia additionally explore their 3D extracellular space by combining growth and shrinking with axial twisting and buckling of their actin rich core.” …

“They’re able to bend – twist, if you will – in a way that allows them to explore the entire space around the cell, and they can even penetrate tissues in their environment,” says lead author, Niels Bohr Institute biophysicist Natascha Leijnse.

Jacinta Bowler, “Your Cells Have Weird ‘Tentacles’ That Help Them Move Around. Here’s How They Work” at ScienceAlert (March 28, 2022)

Unfortunately, some of the cells that probably get a lot of use out of their filopodia are cancer cells. But maybe, the researchers suggest, that fact points to new treatment methods.

The paper is open access.

You may also wish to read: Origin of life: But how do cells come to have “borders” at all? Inanimate objects don’t have “borders” because they need not defend themselves against anything. Boulders don’t care if they end up as sand. Having a membrane at all suggests that something is different about life that can’t be explained by the various “It all just happened” scenarios we often hear about how life got started. How did life forms decide they wanted to protect themselves?

2 Replies to “Our cells even have tentacles

  1. 1
    KRock says:

    Remarkable! It’s like each cell is a factory comprised of biological nano-technology.

  2. 2

    From Michael Denton – “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis”

    “To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the portholes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units. The nucleus of itself would be a vast spherical chamber more than a kilometer in diameter, resembling a geodesic dome inside of which we would see, all neatly stacked together in ordered arrays, the miles of coiled chains of the DNA molecules. A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell.
    We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines. We would notice that the simplest of the functional components of the cell, the protein molecules, were astonishingly, complex pieces of molecular machinery, each one consisting of about three thousand atoms arranged in highly organized 3-D spatial conformation. We would wonder even more as we watched the strangely purposeful activities of these weird molecular machines, particularly when we realized that, despite all our accumulated knowledge of physics and chemistry, the task of designing one such molecular machine – that is one single functional protein molecule – would be completely beyond our capacity at present and will probably not be achieved until at least the beginning of the next century. Yet the life of the cell depends on the integrated activities of thousands, certainly tens, and probably hundreds of thousands of different protein molecules.
    We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction. In fact, so deep would be the feeling of deja-vu, so persuasive the analogy, that much of the terminology we would use to describe this fascinating molecular reality would be borrowed from the world of late twentieth-century technology.
    What we would be witnessing would be an object resembling an immense automated factory, a factory larger than a city and carrying out almost as many unique functions as all the manufacturing activities of man on earth. However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours. To witness such an act at a magnification of one thousand million times would be an awe-inspiring spectacle.”
    Credit: Michael Denton PhD., Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, pg.328

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