Science: A Cell's Travels by Ruffling

The menacing form depicted in this dramatic photograph is not some giant glob of man-eating protoplasm from a science-fiction film. It is actually a hamster's kidney cell magnified 15,000 times by a scanning electron microscope. Such scientific snapshots taken by Caltech Biologist Jean-Paul Revel may offer an important clue to a mystery that has long puzzled scientists: how a living cell moves across a surface. The cell's perambulations, Revel says, are apparently made possible by a strange phenomenon called "ruffling."

According to Revel's interpretation of the photos, the cell sprouts thin, veil-like folds along its forward edge—that is, in the direction of...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!