Imagine stopping cancer cells in their tracks.

Researchers considering the ability to do so one day as a type of cancer therapy have unveiled research unlocking some clues about how cells move around the body.

Florida State University researchers have found a way around uncooperative cells which involves disassembling and reconstituting worm sperm cells. The process devises conditions that promote the cells’ natural push-pull crawling motion.

The study was led by cell biologist Tom Roberts, and was conducted in large part by his postdoctoral associate Katsuya Shimabukuro.

The findings of the study have the potential to help to fight against the metastasis of cancer.

"Understanding how cells crawl is a big deal," Roberts said in a statement announcing results of the study published in the journal Current Biology.

Human health depends on the motility of cells, the ability to crawl from place to place. In the human body millions of cells are crawling around doing mostly good deeds, unless those crawlers are cancerous.

"This is not some horrible sci-fi movie come true but, instead, normal cells carrying out their daily duties," Roberts said.

Roberts has studied the mechanical and molecular means by which amorphous single cells purposefully propel themselves throughout the body in amoeboid-like fashion, absent muscles, bones, or brains for the past 35 years.

Cells use millions of tiny filaments found on their front ends to push the front of their cytoskeletons forward, the cells then retract their rears and continue this process. However, once they have been taken out of the body and put under a microscope the crawling changes or stops.

Now with Roberts and his research team’s new way around uncooperative cells by disassembling and reconstituting a worm sperm cell, scientists now have the opportunity to watch the reconstituted machinery move just like regular worm sperm cells do in a natural setting.

Roberts called his former postdoctoral signal achievement "careful, clever work," making possible new, revealing images of cell motility that could help to pinpoint just how cells crawl.

"The first line of defense against invading microorganisms, the remodeling of bones, healing wounds in the skin and reconnecting of neuronal circuits during regeneration of the nervous system all depend on the capacity of specialized cells to crawl,” said Roberts.

"On the downside, the ability of tumor cells to crawl around is a contributing factor in the metastasis of malignancies," he said.

"But we believe our achievements in this latest round of basic research could eventually aid in the development of therapies that target cell motility in order to interfere with or block the metastasis of cancer."