Researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create processes that will look more deeply than ever into the protein networks that drive cells.
The four-year grant to Rice bioengineers Michael Diehl and Amina Qutub and MD Anderson synthetic biologist Gbor Balzsi will enable a collaboration on new ways to see and evaluate the mechanisms that give cells their shapes, prompt them to change and move and sometimes help them evade safeguards and turn cancerous.
Each of the labs offers unique technology that when combined should let scientists analyze many characteristics of a cell at once. They will focus first on the internal cytoskeleton of stem cells and the proteins that regulate the cells' plasticity, defined as their ability to take on the characteristics of other types of cells.
"This study is not as much about how cells change as about seeing how flexibly they can change their status and behaviors," said Diehl, the project leader and an associate professor of bioengineering and of chemistry based at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC). "We want to develop a composite experimental and theoretical approach that allows one to take individual proteins and control their expression level uniformly in a population of cells.
"Then we can do two things: We can see if the cells move differently and their shapes change, and we can characterize the spatial patterning of cytoskeletal regulatory molecules. Correlating these behaviors and properties will allow us to find the sources of plasticity at the cellular and molecular level," he said.
"The idea is that we can manipulate one of the proteins involved in a regulatory pathway so we can trigger cells to become more plastic," said Qutub, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the BRC. She said the experiments could offer clues as to why some cells
|Contact: David Ruth|