Human cells can ‘feel’ neighbours with fingers

London, Dec 26 (IANS) Human cells have finger-like projections that they use to feel their surroundings, says a study, adding that these can detect the chemical environment and can “feel” their physical surroundings using ultra-sensitive sensors.

Called filopodia, these finger-like structures can extend themselves, contract and bend in dynamic movements, said the team from the Niels Bohr Institute at University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
“The filopodia structures are very dynamic and can both contract and elongate and bend actively in all directions,” said Poul Martin Bendix, associate professor at Niels Bohr Institute.
Filopodia can bring messages back to the cell about both the chemical environment and the physical surroundings.
In many biological processes, cell interaction and communication with their environment are critical to their functioning.
For example, the cells use the filopodia structures for correct development of the embryo, for growing nerve cells and when cells (like macrophages) need to migrate towards pathogenic bacteria in order to remove them.
“The new results show a surprising new mechanism where rotation is converted into a mechanical feature that makes it possible for the cell to interact with neighbouring cells,” Bendix said.
The results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).