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Contact Tracing

Cell-cell interactions revealed using a new fluorescence technology called GFP-based Touching Nexus

11 January 2021

Contact Tracing

In 2020 we saw that keeping track of every person someone encounters, and contacting them should you need to, can be tricky. Imagine trying to do the same thing at a microscopic scale. Just like people, cells’ nature is to constantly interact with those around them, and their very purpose is often defined by these exchanges. Keeping track of these minute meetings could help explain the complex web of processes that both sustain healthy life and drive disease development. A new system uses nanobodies to affix fluorescent proteins to the outside of cells, and then reveal cell-cell interactions. Physical contact is highlighted as the brightly coloured tag is passed like a tennis ball between velcro pads, such as when cancer cells (green) emit molecules towards neurons (purple). By shining a light on how cancer interacts with its environment, this technique might illuminate new approaches to treatment.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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