Sticky cells: cyclic mechanical reinforcement extends longevity of bonds between cells

Research carried out by scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and The University of Manchester has revealed new insights into how cells stick to each other and to other bodily structures, an essential function in the formation of tissue structures and organs.

It's thought that abnormalities in their ability to do so play an important role in a broad range of disorders, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The study's findings are outlined in the journal Molecular Cell and describe a surprising new aspect of cell adhesion involving the family of cell adhesion molecules known as integrins, which are found on the surfaces of most cells.

The research uncovered a phenomenon termed ''cyclic mechanical reinforcement,'' in which the length of time during which bonds exist is extended with repeated pulling and release between the integrins and ligands that are part of the extracellular matrix to which the cells attach.

Professor Martin Humphries, dean of the faculty of life sciences at the University of Manchester and one of the paper's co-authors, says the study suggests some new capabilities for cell.

Humphries says. ''This paper identifies a new kind of bond that is strengthened by cyclical applications of force, and which appears to be mediated by complex shape changes in integrin receptors. The findings also shed light on a possible mechanism used by cells to sense extracellular topography and to aggregate information through 'remembering' multiple interaction events.''