Abstract

Cell motility is a process deriving from the synchronized dynamics of the cytoskeleton. In several important physiological processes—notably, cancer metastasis—the randomly moving cells can acquire a directional motility phenotype and bias their motions in response to environmental cues. Despite intense research, however, the current understanding of directional cell migration is incomplete and there is a growing need to develop systems that would enable the study and control of this process. This article demonstrates that random motions of motile cells can be rectified by asymmetric (‘ratchet’) microgeometries. Interactions between the cells and the imposed geometrical cues guide cell polarization and give rise to directional motility. Depending on the ratchet design, cells of different types can move either in the same or in opposite directions on the same imposed pattern. In the latter case, it is possible to partially sort mixed cell populations into different collecting reservoirs.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the NCI Northwestern CCNE (NIH 1U54CA119341-01), the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences (to B.A.G.) and the Sloan Fellowship (to B.A.G.). G.M. was supported by a Gates Fellowship. C.J.C. was supported by a Northwestern University Presidential Fellowship. K.J.M.B. was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. K.K.-G. was supported by a Fellowship from a Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (W81XW4-05-1-0312).

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  1. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, 2145 Sheridan Rd, Illinois 60208, USA

    • Goher Mahmud
    • , Christopher J. Campbell
    • , Kyle J. M. Bishop
    • , Yulia A. Komarova
    • , Oleg Chaga
    • , Siowling Soh
    • , Sabil Huda
    • , Kristiana Kandere-Grzybowska
    •  & Bartosz A. Grzybowski

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Contributions

G.M. C.J.C, Y.A.K. and K.K.-G. carried out most experiments and data analysis; Y.A.K., K.K.-G., O.C. and S.H. carried out high-resolution in-cell imaging; K.J.M.B. and S.S. developed the theoretical model; K.K.-G. and B.A.G. conceived the experiments and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Kristiana Kandere-Grzybowska or Bartosz A. Grzybowski.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys1306

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