Researchers used computer modeling to show how cells can feel their way through their surroundings, important when, for example, a tumor cell invades a new tissue or organ. This computer simulation depicts collagen fibers that make up the extracellular matrix in which cells live. Local arrangements of these fibers are extremely variable in their flexibility, with some fibers (blue) responding strongly to the cell and others (red) responding hardly at all. The surprising amount of variability in a local area makes it difficult for cells (represented by green arrows) to determine the overall amount of stiffness in a local area, and suggests that cells need to move or change shape to sample more of the surrounding area.
Read more about this research on the movement of cells here.