In the body, cells move like flocks of birds or schools of fish | Science News

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In the body, cells move like flocks of birds or schools of fish

Biologists look to collective behavior of animals to help explain cell movement

2:02pm, December 16, 2015
bird flock

TRAVEL TIPS  Bird follow rules when flocking. Cells in the body migrate in groups following similar rules, cell biologists are discovering.

SAN DIEGO — Cell biologists are taking clues from marching ants, flocking birds and other animals to learn how groups of cells move through the body.

Such studies are yielding insights about cell movement during development as well as the spread of cancer. Learning about cells’ social interactions may give researchers new ways to peer pressure cells into good behavior.

Cell biologists have traditionally studied individual cells or how groups of physically connected cells move. It’s only in the past few years that researchers have begun to regard cells as individuals with collective behavior. Taking cues from the linked movements of animals helps researchers “understand how cells, which everybody assumed had minds of their own, could possibly move as a group,” says Brian Stramer, a cell biologist at King’s College London.

Developmental biologist Roberto Mayor and colleagues have collected evidence

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