Ladies and gentlemen, start your… Petri dishes.

It may not have been the Indy 500, but a line of fetal mesenchymal bone marrow cells from Singapore recently out-dashed dozens of contenders to take the checkered flag at the World Cell Race. Claiming their title as the world's fastest cells, the microscopic racers zoomed across a Petri dish at the whiplash-inducing speed of 5.2 microns per minute, or 0.000000194 miles per hour.


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Results were announced December 3 at the American Society for Cell Biology's annual meeting in Denver, Colo. Fifty participating labs from around the world used 70 cell lines to not only race, but examine cell movement during the development of embryos, organs and cancer.

Teams shipped the cells frozen to designated laboratories in Boston, London, Heidelberg, Paris, San Francisco and Singapore. Once thawed, the cells were placed in "race tracks" that were 400 microns long (0.015748 inches) and coated with a substance that gave the little guys some tire-like traction. Digital cameras recorded the cells for 24 hours to determine, out of the 200 cells, which one was the fastest to reach the end of the track.

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A line of unaltered breast epithelial cells took second place and third place went to the the same cell type only altered to reflect patterns observed in cancerous cells. Researchers responsible for the winning cells received Nikon digital cameras and World Cell Race medals.

[Via Nature]

Credit: Monya Baker