Scientists now can observe how cells move inside the human body

A new way to see inside individual cells.

Affimer
Affimer Image: University of Leeds

Cell movement could give researchers extra insight and tools to tackle cancers and other diseases. Thanks to a new way that enable researchers to observe individual cells, and study how they move and operate inside the human body.

For this, Leeds scientists used a lab-made protein called an Affimer and bound it to the F-actin. Here, F-actin protein plays a vital role within cell network to shape and move the cells.

Affimers are a man-made alternative to animal-derived antibodies. This has the important extra benefit of reducing the numbers of animals used in research work.

Scientists isolated Affimers and created a version which recognizes and binds to the F-actin protein, which forms part of a dense ‘wiring system’ of filaments within cells, to give them their structure and assists with their movement and division.

The above images show the green stained actin within cells, and the purple coloured affimer which has binded to it. The addition of the affimer to the actin inside the cell makes it much easier for scientists to study the cell’s behaviour.
The above images show the green stained actin within cells and the purple colored affirmer which has bound to it. The addition of the affimer to the actin inside the cell makes it much easier for scientists to study the cell’s behavior.

Ruth Hughes, a Research Fellow at the University, who co-led led the research said, “The Affimers carry a biological label which lights up under a microscope to help us see the F-actin with greater accuracy than previously possible with antibodies.”

For the better view, the small size of the Affimers has made it conceivable to tie directly into the thick actin organize in living cells, empowering researchers to watch development inside the phone.

Michelle Peckham, Professor of Cell Biology at the University’s Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology has been involved in newly-published research explaining the advance. Professor Peckham said: “These Affimers provide a new tool for live cell imaging and reducing the use of animals in research.

“Being able to see the F-actin in motion could enable proteins which bind to the actin and regulate its movement to be studied in greater depth; these interactions have been linked to a wide range of diseases including cancer, neurological disorders, and cardiomyopathies.”

Further study for better development of the Affimers could be beneficial in diagnostic assays, as well as a wide range of research areas including cancer and heart disease.

Details are published in the Scientific Reports journal.