Takanari Inoue of Cell Biology and the Center for Cell Dynamics on the leading edge of migrating cells:
Why is it important to force specific proteins to certain regions within moving cells and how do you do that?
INOUE: We would like to be able to test if the local activation of certain proteins are sufficient for polarizing cells. One way to do this is to use UV light to activate a light-sensitive drug that then turns on or off something else.
I’d like to achieve some local activation or inactivation of certain proteins to see if that would be sufficient to result in the polarization of cells. One way I could achieve local perturbation is to use UV light. I’m trying to make a drug that becomes activated upon UV illumination. When you shine UV light locally, the drug changes form to become activated, but only within that illumination area.
How to you achieve such focused and targeted activation?
INOUE: Well, it’s similar to using fluorescence microscopy. But lighting cells under a microscope requires a wide view—if you focus that light, you can focus on a smaller region of a single cell. Special optical filters and lenses can generate light beams in whatever size you need.
Are there other methods available to locally perturb a cell membrane?
INOUE: Another way to do it is by using a microfluidics device. This is a micro-sized chamber where you can control the flow of the solution over the cells. In fact, you can have two different flow patterns acting on different regions of the same cell to see if asymmetric signals can cause the cell to become polarized.
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