The Glue of Life

By manipulating the adhesiveness of cells, scientists hope to stop the spread of cancer, cure arthritis and develop a new class of therapies

If living cells didn't have a fondness for sticking together, we would all be colorful gobs of jelly oozing all over the floor. Fortunately, cells hold to a basic biological premise that stickiness is desirable for form and essential for function. They violate this premise at our peril. When cells become either too sticky or too slippery, arteries can get clogged, cancer cells can skate around the body, and inflammation can turn subversive. Researchers have long believed that if they could somehow manipulate stickiness, they would have a formidable new set of tools for healing.

Now, after decades of frustration and...

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