Networking in living cells may hold key to fighting diseases

Published on August 24, 2007 at 8:22 AM · No Comments

Scientists in Manchester are working to change the social habits of living cells an innovation that could bring about cleaner and greener fuel and help fight diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

As part of a new 18 million project spanning six countries, The Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology at The University of Manchester will spearhead important new research into an emerging field of science and engineering known as Systems Biology.

Scientists have recently discovered that networking in living cells may determine whether a cell causes diabetes or cancer or helps to maintain our health.

By adjusting and modifying the way cells network, researchers believe it's possible to adjust the behaviour of living cells and reduce the chances of disease occurring.

Using this approach Manchester researchers working on the Systems Biology of Microorganisms (SysMO) research programme will also drive a project that looks at how the yeast used in the production of beer and bread can be turned into an efficient producer of bioethanol.

Other work to be carried out in Manchester includes the investigation of lactobacilli. Some of these occasionally turn into flesh-eating bacteria or cause human diseases such as strep throat and rashes, whereas others are completely safe and are used in the production of cheeses and yoghurts.

It's hoped the work will lead not only to greater understanding of how wrong networks lead to disease, but also to the production of drugs and other foods more efficiently and safely.

Academics will also look at pseudomonads soil bacteria that may make people ill but can also be used to degrade nasty compounds in the environment, or to create compounds now being made by chemical industries.

Researchers will also focus on thermophilic organisms that live naturally in hot springs, and examine how their networks enable them to survive high and varying temperatures. It's hoped that this research will reveal how to make any living organism cope better with extreme conditions. It may also lead to better performance of detergents and cosmetics.

All research will be carried out in the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB) a unique, purpose-built,38m facility that brings together experts from a wide range of disciplines in order to tackle major challenges in quantitative, interdisciplinary bioscience.

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