Research is now being conducted in the ways through which cells communicate with one another, as it can open a key to improving treatments of serious diseases like cancer. One particular family of such signaling molecules are known as Wnt Proteins which are transported in between cells. These molecules signal for various cell developmental processes.
The mechanism behind the transmission of Wnt proteins has been found out just recently, that certain cell protrusions known as cytonemes play a major role in the transmission of the signal for controlling the rate of cell division.
Previously, researchers have believed that these signaling molecules were in fact secreted by the cells into the extracellular space, from where they would diffuse. Professor Steffen Scholpp, the Principal Investigator in the recent research, says that the result of their research is in contrast with the previously held beliefs; that is there are certain cell protrusions (cytonemes) which connect all the cells in a multicellular body. These findings portray a precise and controlled transmission of information in between sender and target cells.
The excessive cell division that can form into various types of cancer is caused by unnecessary Wnt signaling. This research could help target cytoneme production to lower excessive transmission of the signal causing cell division. Apart from the formation of cytoneme, Wnt can transcend to areas of the cell membrane. It interacts with a receptor called Ror2. It is for the first time that we see a protein controlling its own transport mechanism.
Wnt signaling also pertains to the formation of an embryo, healing of a wound, cell regeneration and organ development. Hence, the area of study can be extended in examining its role in various developmental disorders.
Professor Scholpp further adds that their research has made it easy to understand the aspects of the information grid in the tissue’s matrix. The way these cell protrusions form a web can tell how certain changes in its connections would alter its course of actions. Further studies at molecular, cellular and tissue level are required to study through the functions and structures of these cell protrusions thoroughly, especially when they undergo contact-based signaling.