What is the Dicty World Race?

The Dicty World Race is a collaborative-science event designed to accelerate our progress towards understanding neutrophil motility by actively engaging all the scientists in the field of cell motility.  Cells prepared in various laboratories will have to navigate through microscopic mazes and compete for the title of the world smartest and fastest. Genetic manipulations and doping of cells are not only allowed, but highly encouraged. Anything that helps us learn what makes neutrophils respond quickly and effectively against microbes could eventually become a target for better diagnostic and treatments of sepsis.


Sepsis is an abnormal response of the immune system to infections, which causes injury to one’s own body and can be fatal. Sepsis affects more than 1 million Americans each year. It can affect both the elderly, in critical condition from other diseases, and the young, following major trauma, burn injuries, or severe infections. Treating septic patients consumes more of the Medicare budget than any other condition (~7% of all Medicare expenses). However, despite the best treatments available today, one in three patients with sepsis dies.  Complications are frequent, and often have long term consequences :

To uncover the key pathological events leading to sepsis, we are bringing forward a new perspective, focused on neutrophils.


Neutrophils are the white blood cells that protect us from microbial invasion. In healthy individuals, their response to microbes is like that of a disciplined and well trained army. Neutrophils move quickly from blood to tissues, navigate directly to the microbes, and neutralize them with high efficacy.

In patients with sepsis, this army falls into disarray, and neutrophil activity is altered. Neutrophil motility decreases, precise navigation to targets is impaired, and new, unusual phenotypes emerge.


Neutrophils from Healthy IndividualNeutrophils from Patient


One would think that we already have drugs to correct neutrophil motility. However, this is hardly the case. Neutrophil motility is the result of the activity of hundreds of molecular components that are organized on many length and time scales inside cells. Although we know most of the molecules involved in cell movement, we understand little about how these molecules work together. Putting the pieces together toward a predictive understanding of cell motility is hard and cooperation among researchers and new strategies are necessary.

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