Hot Topic Lecture: Creating a path

Posted on May 29, 2019   by Alex Kubiakowska

The first Hot Topic Lecture of Annual Conference 2019 was given by Professor Robert Insall, from Cancer Research UK, Beatson Institute (Glasgow, UK). He gave his talk on ‘Creating a path- how single cells can solve mazes, see round corners, and find out where they ought to go.’

The lecture focused on a microbe’s ability to navigate and how this can be applied to understanding disease, developing transport routes and how cancer metastasizes and spreads via the bloodstream.

Having spent most of his research career trying to understand eukaryotic chemotaxis, Professor Insall introduced his talk with a short video that showed a human neutrophil chasing a bacterium until it changed shape as it moved through obstacles. Describing the key factors that influence how paths are created, he stressed the importance of space, shape and time.  

Using melanoma cells as an example, he went on to present how the cells have the information to grow, spread and travel from the inside of a tumour to the outside. Sharing his research into how self-generated gradients work, Professor Insall then displayed various examples of models, showing cells breaking down the attractant, demonstrating their robustness.

Bringing his talk to a close, Professor Insall offered two conclusions: the first was to go back to mixing experiments with cells, models and equations and using the findings to gain an insight into more interesting discoveries. Secondly, he proposed embracing the complexity of paths and combining tools and modelling together along with engineering.

You can view Professor Insall's full Hot Topic Lecture below.

Hot Topic 2019: Creating a path