Silver for LCN Cells in the World’s Smallest Race

In the Dicty World Race 2014 – a competition where scientists compete to see who has the quickest cell, which took place in Boston on May 16 – HL60 leukaemia cells grown by the Charras lab at the LCN to claim an honourable second place. With just under 20% of the top 100 , they were the leading human cells in the race.


Watch the LCN’s cell make their way through the maze.


The aim of the race was to see which cells were quickest to navigate a 10umx10um maze made up of microfluidic channels to reach a source of their favourite attractant.  Participants adopted a wide and ingenious variety of race strategies, and even doping and gene manipulations were encouraged, as Dr Charras explained:  “Contractility is a key for efficient migration in confined environments. So we doped up our cells to make them fast and furious...”


Others decided to reduce the adhesiveness of their cells, or increased sensitivity of their cells to the attractant. However, many teams relied on natural selection, using Mother Nature as their guide and basing their entries on current knowledge of cell migration in confined environments.


Although the HL60 cells were the fastest of the qualified competitors, reaching a scorching 20 microns per minute, in the end they were no match for slime mould. With a remarkable 60% of the cells in the top 100 finishers in the race, the amoeba Dictyostelium entered by the Arjan Kortholt/Peter van Haastert lab at the University of Groningen took the honours. As in the fable, it was a case of the tortoise and the hare…


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