‘Cellfie’ of the month: August 2019

The average human is made up of 37.2 trillion cells! TRILLION! That’s 37,200,000,000,000 cells! And they are not all the same – far from it, and we are still uncovering all sorts of new types of cells too. I don’t know about you but I find this incredibly exciting and fascinating – probably why I have a cell biology background. But I wanted to celebrate this on my blog by restarting my ‘Cellfie’ of the month feature after 2 years!

If you were around in the Soph talks science world back in 2016 and 2017, you may remember that my ‘Cellfie’ of the month posts were about the stem cells I was using in my PhD and all sorts of different aspects of cell culture and growing cells in a lab. But you probably know by now that I am no longer working in the lab, so I have changed the format of these slightly. Each month I will invite a different researcher from around the world to share a gorgeous image of the cells they work with and a few words about what they are, how they are using them in their research and anything about the wonderful universe that is a cell.

So, for this month, I invited the wonderful Emily R to tell you all about the lung epithelium cells that she works with in her PhD.


Fishy-Looking Cells…

These are Beas-2B cells.

They were isolated back in 1987 from a lung of a person with no disease. They are from the bronchioles of the lung – the smaller branches within our lungs linked to the alveoli which is where gas exchange happens – and would’ve formed a part of the epithelium – the part that lines the surfaces of the body. Beas-2B cells are very beautiful cells – they often form these bobbles which you can see at the front of the cell called lamellipodia. These structures, formed by the actin cytoskeleton which you can read more about here, are the force generators of the cell which propel it towards its final destination.

As these cells are from a person with no disease they are very useful for research. We can use them as a model for a “normal” phenotype – or the observable characteristics of an individual – and then add in oncogenic genes – which often have the potential to cause cancer – to mimic a cancerous cell. My PhD research focuses on the mechanisms of the migration and invasion of a specific type of lung cancer cells. I look at potential genes and proteins that we think allow cancer cells to move away from the primary tumour site and spread to new sites in the body – the process of metastasis. I use Beas-2B cells with and without the potential oncogenic genes in live cell assays and immunofluorescence microscopy – a technique that uses antibodies to light up specific areas within cells – to detect the changes in the way the cells look or act – often ending up with beautiful pictures like this!


If you want to learn more about the lungs, epithelial cells, oncogenes or any part of Emily’s research, please ask your questions below in the comments. And remember there is no such thing as a stupid question!


What cells would you like to learn more about next?



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