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How human cells can ‘feel’ neighbours by fingers with ultra-sensitive sensors?

Human cells have finger-like projections which are used to feel their surroundings, and these can detect the chemical environment to “feel” their physical surroundings using ultra-sensitive sensors, said a new study.

Called filopodia, these finger-like structures can extend themselves, contract and bend in dynamic movements, said the team of researcher 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 structures can bring messages back to the cell about the chemical environment and the physical surroundings and the biological process helps cell interact and communicate with their environment. These structures are critical to the functioning of the cells.

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 eradicate 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 study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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