Cell biologists at UCSF have received $15.4 million from the National Institutes of Health to set up one of two new National Centers for Systems Biology, to study how cells respond to their environment an emerging field of research that could revolutionize medicine by creating "smart cells" to deliver medications and other therapeutics more effectively.
Wendell A. Lim, Ph.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and UCSF professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, will lead the UCSF center, which is being funded for five years under the NIH program. Researchers at the center will work in collaboration with colleagues at the second center, led by Alexander Hoffmann, PhD, at UC San Diego. Results will shed light on ways cells adapt and protect themselves and may lead to new therapeutic tools.
The UCSF initiative is heralded as a possible means of engineering a patient's own cells for therapeutic uses, according to Paul Brazhnik, PhD, who oversees systems biology center grants at NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).
"By developing an understanding of the design rules that govern biological circuits, particularly those involved in adaptation, Lim's center could help steer a revolutionary direction in medicine the engineering of 'smart cells' that can carry out therapeutic or biotechnologically useful tasks," Brazhnik said.
The UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology will build on previous research by Lim and his colleagues into understanding how cells use biological circuits to sense and adjust to their surroundings.
Living cells use molecular control circuits to achieve complex behaviors, such as homeostasis the cell's ability to regulate its internal environment to maintain constant conditions and adaptation, the process by which cells adjust to become better suited to their environment, Lim explained. Typically, such systems are studied on a case-by-case basis, usi
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University of California -- San Francisco