Cell migration in immunity and cancer

Prof. Ronen Alon, Department of Immunology

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Examining how immune cells and metastatic cancer cells migrate into and out of the blood vessels in which they circulate, Prof. Ronen Alon’s research is clarifying how immune cells speed to the rescue, by exiting blood vessels near specific target sites of injury, inflammation or tissue repair.  He recently revealed that white blood cells of the immune system open large gaps in the internal lining of the blood vessels, so they can exit through the vessel walls, and characterized physical changes introduced into the internal skeletons of endothelial cells–the cells that make up the lining of blood vessels–while immune cells passed through.  As opposed to these immune cell dynamics, cancer cells traveling through blood vessels and exiting at specific organs utilize different biochemical signals to reach their destination and form metastatic lesions. Prof. Alon’s laboratory research therefore focuses on how different metastatic cancer cells travel to distant sites in the body through the bloodstream.  He seeks to identify the unique biochemical triggers that allow this migration to proceed in different types of vessels —something that may eventually lead to improved cancer diagnostics and therapy.