GOOD MONTH/ BAD MONTH
The human body contains hundreds of different types of cell, with each typet playing a unique role in keeping the body’sb various biological processes running smoothly. The way the cells organise within organs helps them coordinate their functions.
“Cells aren’t lonely little automatons. TheyT communicate through networks to make group decisions,” explained researcher Zev Gartner, an associate professor at the UniversityU of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “We can take any cell type we want and program just where it goes. We can preciselyp control who’s talking to whom and who’s touchingg whom at the earliest stages. The cells then follow these initially programmed spatial cues to interact, move around, and develop into tissues over time.”
Studying how the cells of complex tissues make decisions as groups is incredibly difficult in living organisms, thanks partly to their innate complexity and partly to the associated ethical issues. However, “this technique lets us produce simple components of tissue in a dish that we can easily study and manipulate,” said fellow team member and UCSF graduate student Michael Todhunter. “It lets us ask questions about complex human tissues without actually needing to do experiments on humans.”
To create the organoids, the team fix tiny snippets of DNA onto the cells’ outer membranes. These act as a kind of molecular Velcro that allows one cell to stick to another, provided it has complementary DNA. If the DNA sequences don’t match, the cells don’t stick. These cells can then be built up in layers to form complete organoids.
So far the team has created tissue that mimics veins, arteries and mammary glands. Next,e, theyey planpa too use thee techniqueecque too investigate the breakdown of tissue structure that is associated with tumours which spread and threaten the life of the patient. Ultimately, they hope to upscale their technique to build neural circuits and functional human organs such as lungs and kidneys.
“Building functional models of complex cellular networks such as those in the brain is one of the highest challenges you could aspire to,” Todhunter said. “DPAC now makes that lofty goal seem much more achievable.”
It’s been good for:
Late nights and early starts are the perfect recipe for catching colds, according to researchers at the University of California. They found that test subjects getting less than six hours sleep a night were 4.2 times more likely to catch the sniffles than those sleeping for seven or more.
Zev Gartner of the University of California, San Francisco, who led the DPAC research