Cilia – antenna-like structures on most cells – analysed physically in unprecedented detail
On the cell’s surface acting like antennae, cilia are vital for sensing the environment so the cell can respond appropriately. Faulty cilia have become increasingly linked to disease, for example in problems with glucose regulation. Changes in our blood sugar levels are received by the cilium of pancreatic islet cells prompting the release of either the hormone insulin or glucagon to re-stabilise glucose levels. So if the cilium is damaged, it’s easy to see how it could result in disease. However, until now characterisation of these tiny structures physically and how they might vary between cell types has been challenging. Here, using a combination of scanning electron microscopy and cell membrane extraction techniques researchers visualised human cilia in 3D (including their existence as multicilia pictured) for the first time. This approach can be applied to study diseases related to cilia faults in detail and furthers our understanding of cell biology.
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