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Scientists race migrating cells for a worthwhile prize

This August, scientists from around the world will participate in a race reminiscent of a Flaming Lips song. Although the race will, sadly, not consist of goggle-wearing, lab-coated researchers brandishing microscopes while careening down a race track, its outcome could provide valuable insight into one of cancer's genetic components.

As The Economist recently reported, competing scientists will inject mammalian cells of their choice onto a plate containing stripes of a chemical known to attract those particular cells. The scientist whose cell first makes it one tenth of a millimeter down the stripe (to be determined via time-lapse photography) wins.

The race, organized by scientists from Paris' Curie Institute and Grenoble's Atomic Energy Research Center, aims not only to feed participating researchers' bloodthirsty competitive urges and produce heart-stoppingly thrilling footage of cell migration, but also to shed light on how cancer spreads in the body. Cells from metastatic tumors move through the body faster than normal cells. What the race reveals about the genes behind rapid cell mobility may provide clues as to how to slow metastasis in cancer patients. The results may also provide useful information on speeding up the healing process and immune response in instances of cell damage.

Photo by Peter Mooney

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