Research news

Cells feel their environment to explore it

The way cells find their way around is by ‘groping’ rather than seeing their surroundings: this is the main conclusion of a study published in Nature last week involving several IBEC groups and their collaborators.

“We determined how cells detect the position of molecules (or ligands) in their environment with nanometric accuracy,” explains Pere Roca-Cusachs, group leader at IBEC and assistant professor at the University of Barcelona, who led the study. “By adhering to the ligands, the cells apply a force they can detect. As this force depends on the spatial distribution of the ligands, this allows the cells to ‘feel’ their surroundings. It’s like recognizing somebody’s face in the dark by touching it with your hand, rather than seeing the person.”

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Other news

Faster Future 2017 now open for donations

The website of Faster Future, IBEC’s brand new fundraising programme, is now accepting donations.

The initiative, which is being launched this year in time for Giving Tuesday, aims to raise money to help accelerate research projects that are close to tackling major challenges in health.

The money donated via crowdfunding in this first edition will make possible the development of a new solution for muscular dystrophy being developed in Javier Ramon’s Biosensors for Bioengineering group. Their ‘muscle-on-a-chip’ will use a patient’s own cells to study myotonic dystrophy type 1, a progressive disability that begins in adulthood and affects 50,000 people in Spain alone. As well as modelling the patient’s disease in a personalized way, the platform will also allow the study of different drugs or treatments in conditions that mimic the body as closely as possible, as well as offering a more reliable alternative to animal models.

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