Cell migration is a fundamental process underlying diverse (patho)physiological phenomena. The classical understanding of the molecular mechanisms of cell migration has been based on in vitro studies on two-dimensional substrates. More recently, mounting evidence from intravital studies has shown that during metastasis, tumor cells must navigate complex microenvironments in vivo, including narrow, pre-existing microtracks created by anatomical structures. It is becoming apparent that unraveling the mechanisms of confined cell migration in this context requires a multi-disciplinary approach through integration of in vivo and in vitro studies, along with sophisticated bioengineering techniques and mathematical modeling. Here, we highlight such an approach that has led to discovery of a new model for cell migration in confined microenvironments (i.e., the Osmotic Engine Model).
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