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Cells do talk to one another, but the question remains how
Date:5/31/2011

ding to create engineered tissues that mimic the human liver.

The liver is the primary organ in the body that metabolizes foreign compounds such as drugs, alcohol, cigarette smoke, and environmental chemicals. The newly funded work will take advantage of Rajagopalan's in vitro three-dimensional liver mimic, an engineered functional tissue that contains two different hepatic cell types in a layered configuration.

Preliminary results from this work have shown that the 3D liver mimics have the ability to simultaneously maintain the observable traits of both hepatocytes, the main cell type in the liver, and liver sinusoidal endothelial cells. The investigators will use the new National Science Foundation award to discover the pathways by which these two cell types may communicate with each other.

Murali explained, "Each tissue or organ is comprised of different cell types, with each cell type responsible for specific functions. Cells exchange signals to maintain their phenotypes and to optimize their functions. When a cell receives a signal, it sets off complex cascades that trigger and modulate the activities of numerous genes and proteins. However, scientists have only partially mapped out these events. The challenge is to identify these pathways without conducting numerous expensive experiments. Through a combination of experimental and computational approaches, the team hopes to provide a more comprehensive picture of inter-cellular signaling.

Rajagopalan compared the research to the following analogy: consider a large city that has several points of entry and a complex network of roads. A number of paths may exist to enter the city and reach downtown. Only limited knowledge exists on how a person reached downtown. For instance, only the last few roads the person traveled on before reaching downtown are known. The question would remain as to how to trace the entire path taken by the traveler.

Murali specializes in so
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Contact: Lynn Nystrom
tansy@vt.edu
540-231-4371
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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