Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Triangles, Squares and Hexagons: manipulating cell shapes

When I first heard of soft lithography and micro-contact printing, it was fascinating for me to think of experiments based on supramolecular assembly. Eric Green's lab in Columbia did some meticulous experiments including DNA curtains (http://thegreenelab.cumc.columbia.edu/ECG%20Home.html). These expeiments were just awsome!!
However, munching more into that line, to think of cellular shape manipulations was difficult for me. Partly because I had little knowledge about cells. I knew cell only though textbooks. But when I met them (by the way, I met Mr Fibroblast, who is quite funny, and very fond of explorations and dancing) I was surprised to see how fluid the PM be (Plasm Membrane and not Dr Manmohan Singh!). Micropatterns of fibronectin into various geometries constrains the cell to assume the shape of the pattern. So now, one can have cells of a distint size and of a particular geometry, say a triangle or a circle or a hexagon!!
What is so great about it?! Okay you have such funny cells but then what next? hmm... These geometrical shapes provide a controllable variable to understand cytoskeletal mechanics. The experiments are homogenous and the equations are simpler...no no.. not that easy..m still fighting hard to get familiar with them.. :)