Saturday, September 7, 2013

Individual vs. Collective Cell Migration

Cell migration is important in a range of processes like embryonic and tissue development, immune function, blood vessel formation and the spread of cancers to new spots in the body. Cells can move as individuals without cell-cell contacts or as groups that maintain cell-cell contacts. Here is a side-by-side examples of each. (I posted the movie on the left in a previous post.)



  1. Professor, do all kinds of cells exhibit both the lone and the collective mode of migration? Or is the kind of migration a cell is likely to follow restricted only to a specific cell type and primarily defined by the very process it undergoes, say, embryonic/tissue development or immune response or metastasis?

  2. It all depends on the cell. For instance, any epithelial cells can, depending on stimulus and stage in development, migrate as collectives or as individuals. Others migrate solely as individuals or groups. Leukocytes, for example, tend to migrate solely as individuals during immune surveillance. It is interesting that, while cancer metastasis is conventionally thought to involve movement of cells as individuals, certain metastatic cancer cells that are not completely de-differentiated in fact invade move as groups (see

    1. Great! Thanks for such a helpful and essential information on cell migration.

  3. An additional thought: Cells are very much like humans, the most complex organism they build by serving as its building block, its basic unit. Some can do their work alone and would prefer it that way, while others need some company to be able to accomplish their work and function efficiently. Speaking of foibles....