Scientists have revealed the speed of death – and the way it spreads like ‘falling dominoes’ or a mass wave at a football stadium.
In watching death travelling across a living cell for the first time ever, they discovered it moves at a pace of 30 micrometres per minute.
And it happens in a way similar to dominoes – one “death-inducing” molecule activates another and so on and so on, a new study has found.
This continues until the entire cell is shut down.
The study, out of the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, US, discovered that cell death involves the ‘trigger wave’ phenomenon.
For their study, the researchers used cytoplasm, the fluid inside a cell, taken from frog eggs. This was then placed in Teflon tubes several millimeters in length, after which the molecular “death signal” apoptosis process of cell death was initiated. Using a fluorescent technique associated with the activation of apoptosis, the researchers were able to watch the way that the cell’s self-destruction, marked by fluorescence, moved the length of the tube.
“Ideally you’d like to carry out the experiments in real cells,” Ferrell continued. “However there is a problem with that: Most cells are too small to make the distinction (obvious) between a trigger wave, where the wavefront moves with a constant speed, and random walk diffusion, where the farther you go, the slower you go.”