Cell biology research comes in all shapes and methods these days, but a common pursuit unites many labs—they make awesome videos. Driven by accelerating advances in super-resolution imaging, fluorescent tagging, and Big Data manipulation, we’re living in the Golden Age of Cell Movies. At the Annual Meeting in San Diego, Celldance Studios (a.k.a. ASCB’s Public Information Committee, or PIC) released three prime examples of eye-popping live cell imaging as short (four- to six-minute) videos made by cell scientists themselves telling their own cell research stories.
Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, hailed the 2014 Celldance videos as “microscopic blockbusters” (http://1.usa.gov/15VcjnS). With the release of Celldance 2015, PIC hopes to continue the tradition of scale (microscopic) and impact (big). PIC solicited proposals from ASCB member labs, selecting three for video production grants of $1,000 each together with ASCB postproduction services provided by ASCB. The Celldance 2015 videos were made by ASCB members in the labs of John Condeelis at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, Satyajit Mayor at the National Centre for the Biological Sciences in India, and Douglas Robinson at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. All three Celldance videos are available to stream or download for nonprofit enjoyment by the news media, educators, the Web, and the curious world.
Spying on Cancer Cell Invasion, Edison Leung with Allison Harney, John Condeelis lab, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Edison Leung says his cancer research lab makes movies of all genres—horror, action, thriller, and war—all shot inside cancer tumors. Working alongside Allison Harney in the Einstein lab of John Condeelis, Leung created a Celldance video that shows metastasizing cancer cells, helped by the body’s own macrophages, break through a blood vessel wall and escape to form new tumors. Through live cell imaging, Leung’s video captures the moment the cancer cell and the macrophage work as a team to break through the vessel wall of a mouse. A nano burst of blood spills out as the cancer cell rushes past. It is terrifying. It is thrilling. It is cancer metastasis, live.
At the Cell’s Edge, Satyajit Mayor, National Centre for Biological Science
“Namaste,” says a young scientist, in welcome to the laboratory of Satyajit Mayor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in India. The focus of the Mayor lab in Bangalore is the dynamic cell membrane that encircles all living cells. It holds things in, holds things out, and holds everything in cells together. The graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the Mayor lab give a detailed account of their exploration of the churning lipids and proteins on the cell surface. Illustrated by startling live cell videos, high-tech simulations, and low-tech white boards, At the Cell’s Edge paints the cell membrane as a restless nano-scale seascape.
Shape Shifting Cells, Douglas Robinson, Johns Hopkins University
The Robinson lab video starts with a basic question—why are cancer cells softer than normal cells? It ends with a potential drug that can turn hardness against pancreatic cancer cells. Their cell story walks us through the stages of discovery—the shape and hardness of cells, cell cannibalism where the soft (cancer) eat the hard (normal), an amoeba model to see the proteins that stiffen cells, and the identification of 4HAP, a small protein that sticks it to pancreatic cancer cells. Throughout, the video is a visual extravaganza of high-resolution microscopy, mathematical representations, animation, and live action.
* An earlier version of this article appeared on the ASCB Post