Researchers report first evidence of cellular ‘catch bonds’

An article published this week in the journal Nature provides the first experimental evidence for an unusual molecular bonding mechanism that could explain how certain cells adhere to surfaces such as blood vessel walls under conditions of mechanical stress. Known as “catch bonds,” the adhesion mechanism displays surprising behavior, prolonging rather than shortening the lifetimes of bonds between specific molecules as increasing force is applied. Proposed theoretically nearly 15 years ago, catch bonds could help explain how the body regulates the activity of white blood cells, which must flow freely through blood vessels — yet bond to injury sites despite blood flow forces.