Lay summary

Cell migration is a fundamental process of life. Unicellular organisms such as amoeba have to migrate to reach food and to mate. In multicellular organisms cell migration of individual cells or coordinated multicellular migration is required for gastrulation, morphogenesis and organogenesis (e.g. angiogenesis). Furthermore, the entire homeostasis of multicellular organisms relies on processes of cell migration including the process of immunosurveillance. Finally, cell migration is a crucial process during inflammation and tissue repair and is an integral mechanism of many pathological processes such as chronic inflammatory diseases and tumor metastasis. Immune and tumor cell migration are therefore two topics of outmost biomedical significance. 

With the ProDoc “Cell migration” we bring together experts from both the immunology and the tumor cell biology communities to investigate mechanism involved in the regulation of cell migration and to establish a training program for highly qualified PhD and MD-PhD students in this field. The program combines the research focus and state-of the art equipment of the Theodor Kocher Institute at the University of Bern for stuying cell migration by means of live cell imaging technologies, the strong focus and international reputation of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Bellinzona on mouse and human immunology and the competence of rese arch groups at the University of Fribourg on the recruitment of immune effector cells into tumours and tumour-host interactions. These complementary scientific expertises and the diverse research tools that are used in the different laboratories provide a unique framework for the training of young scientists. The PhD students in the ProDoc “Cell migration” are exposed to state-of-the art investigative methods such as live cell in vitro and in vivo imaging, transgenic mouse models and human in vitro models. They will acquire highly competitive scientific skills which will set the ground for a successful career.

Within the ProDoc “Cell migration” the PhD students are grouped in three research modules. Research Module I aims to study immune cell migration during immunosurveillance and inflammation, Research Module II focuses on cell migration in tumorigenesis and metastasis and Research Module III investigates the role of soluble factors in regulating cell migration. A central feature of the ProDoc “Cell migration” is collaborative and interdisciplinary research which requires mobility of the students. The PhD students perform specific parts of their thesis within the different participating laboratories and in this way will gain a broad theoretical and methodological know-how that could not be acquired in the individual laboratories and that will allow them to build up a scientific network. The program also includes advanced lectures, seminars and workshops in different aspects of cell migration, both theoretically and practically and the students have the opportunity to present their work at international meeting. The ProDoc “Cell migration” initiates a new research network among Swiss research groups in the field of cell migration in immunosurveillance, inflammation and cancer and this collaboration will certainly continue past the duration of the program and will contribute to persistent progress in cancer and inflammation research.