Researchers have devised a technology that can help them locally, reversibly, and acutely disturb the mode of action of certain cellular proteins, thus deactivating them, at a microscopic scale. The technique allows for proteins to break when blue light is illuminated upon them. This technique can be used across a large number of applications and could help unravel several new opportunities in the area of cell biology.
One of the key challenges ahead of scientists presently is finding out the purpose and mode of action of specific proteins in cell and where and when they do certain things, something that cannot be still achieved alone by the most advanced technologies related to genetics we have presently.
In a recent paper published on the journal Nature Cell Biology, the researchers used the new technique to validate for the first time that the migration of cancer cells depends on the ability of constituent elements of the dynamic skeleton of the cells to expand in the direction of movement of cell. These skeletons are called microtubules. This finding can have many implications for scientists to understand in detail all aspects associated with the migration of cells and could help in the development of new modes of treatment that are capable of blocking or stopping cancer metastasis.
Unlike earlier methods, the new technique allows scientists to make any of the several proteins sensitive to light in any kind of cell, thus allowing them to switch on and off the function of the protein rapidly in the cell. This makes the technique highly promising for understanding the field of cell biology more comprehensively.