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Human cells’ remodeling abilities may be key to how cancer spreads

Biophysicist Bo Sun.

Human cells have tremendous power to mechanically change their surroundings, opening the door to new insights on a variety of physiological processes including how cancer spreads, according to a recently published study by biophysicist Bo Sun and collaborators from the  College of Science, Rice University and the University of Michigan.

These irreversible mechanical remodels are different from the chemical changes to the extracellular matrix that cells also induce, and happen much faster – taking place in a few minutes and triggering the chemical remodels, which occur over hours and days.

“Collagen is a major component of our connective tissues,” said Bo Sun. “Our tissue is constantly changing, and biochemical interactions between cells and the collagen matrix are crucial for maintaining the integrity of living tissue. But cells also interact with the matrix physically – there are pushing forces from membrane protrusions and pulling forces from cell contraction.”

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