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May the Fastest Cells Win: Check Out This Microscopic Race

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"tongue-in-cheek contest of microscopic mobility"

Who would have thought a cellular race on a microscopic track embedded in a petri dish could be so exciting? It's no NASCAR or Preakness but it was the first race of its kind in cellular history.

Watch the riveting battle of the cells taking part in the World Cell Race:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/Uh-Q4ysW2i0?version=3&hl=en_US expand=1]

Nature Blog reports that this "tongue-in-cheek contest of microscopic mobility" was won by a line of bone marrow cells submitted from researchers in Singapore, beating out dozens of competitors. The race took place earlier this year, but winners were recently announced at the American Society for Cell Biology.

Nature has more on the contest that had 50 participants and 70 lines of competing cells:

Behind the fun is a serious goal: looking broadly at how cells move. Ultimately, cell migration lets embryos and organs develop and allows to cancer spread. The contest provides the first reference for many cell types migrating under the same conditions, and is already leading to some interesting comparisons, says Théry. For example, stem cells and cancer cells seem to be faster than their mature and healthy counterparts.

Rather than actually racing cells at a scientific conference, teams shipped frozen cells to designated laboratories in Boston, London, Heidelberg, Paris, San Francisco, and Singapore. Thawed cells were placed in wells containing “race tracks”. Each track was 400 microns (0.4 mm) long and coated with a substance that gives cells some traction. Digital cameras recorded cells for 24 hours to determine the fastest run down the track for each cell line. In total, about 200 cells of each cell type were timed to see how long it took the fastest individual cell of each type to reach the end of its track.

The key to victory? Avoid changing direction, says Théry, who co-organized the race with colleagues from Institut Curie in Paris. Cells that went back and forth along the track took longer to finish

Coming in after the first-place fetal mesenchymal bone marrow cells from Yuchun Liu at the University of Singapore were two cell lines submitted by Odile Filhol-Cochet of iRTSV in France. Second place went to a line of unaltered breast epithelial cells, with third going to the same cell type tweaked to reflect cell-signaling patterns observed in cancerous cells; they clocked 3.2 and 2.7 microns per minute respectively. Finishing fourth, at an average speed of 2.5 microns per minute, were cultured human skin cells derived from patients with a rare genetic skin disorder.

In addition to bragging rights, winners received a medal and Nikon digital cameras.

[H/T Popular Science]

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