Undergraduate Thesis Or Project

Directing Cell Migration via Environmental Anisotropy

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  • Type I collagen fibers, the connective tissue that makes up the human breast, can be easily manipulated by cells or other outside factors. In previous studies, the alignment of collagen has been associated with the beginning of metastatic cancer, possibly influencing cancerous cells to migrate from the tumor. In this experiment, I investigate the influence of collagen alignment on MDA-MB-231 cancer cell motility. Via the insertion of an iron particle (alongside the cancerous cells) into an extracellular matrix made of type-I collagen fibers, I was able to manipulate the collagen fiber into alignment by rotating the iron particle. Using confocal reflection microscopy and F-actin staining I was able to observe the collagen fiber orientation alongside the cancer cells. Having rotated the iron particle to various degrees of rotation, I was able to align collagen fibers to create collagen bundles at higher degrees of rotation and non-bundled, aligned fibers at lower degrees of rotation. By observing the cancer cells stretch out along the aligned collagen fibers, I determined that migration was successfully influenced by collagen alignment. Whether or not collagen bundles were created in the aligned fibers did not seem to have an affect on migration. This iron nanoparticle technique is a straightforward assay that can be generalized to other cell types. Further investigation could be done to show if linear or rotational alignment have different amounts of influence on cell migration.
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