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Biomedical research revealing secrets of cell behavior
Date:7/1/2013

TEMPE, Ariz -- Knowing virtually everything about how the body's cells make transitions from one state to another for instance, precisely how particular cells develop into multi-cellular organisms would be a major jump forward in understanding the basics of what drives biological processes.

Such a leap could open doors to far-reaching advances in medical science, bioengineering and related areas.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Arizona State University, with a partner at Imperial College London, report on taking at least a step toward better comprehension of the fundamentals of "cell fate determination" in the prominent research journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Cell fate determination relates to the mechanisms by which a cell "decides" in what direction it will go in moving through transitional phases into a final state.

Using mathematical modeling and synthetic biology techniques the team is manufacturing artificial gene networks (a collection of DNA segments in a cell that interact with each other) and introducing them into cells in the laboratory.

From there, the researchers are able to closely observe through microscopic imaging what is happening with particular cells at their "tipping point," a stage of rest right before they transition into other states.

By learning what takes place at that point, "We can get closer to a fundamental insight about all biology," says biomedical engineer and synthetic biologist Xiao Wang.

Once the mechanisms determining the fate of cells are better understood, Wang says, "We could make gene networks or devices that do what we want them to do," such as create cells that produce medicinal drugs or that kill diseased cells, or create cells that act as sensors to detect environmental hazards.

Wang is an assistant professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of ASU's Ira A
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Contact: Joe Kullman
joe.kullman@asu.edu
480-965-8122
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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