Yale scientists participate in $12.3M NIH National Technology Center

October 27, 2005

New Haven, Conn. -- Two Yale scientists are part of the research team receiving $12.3 million, five-year grant as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap for Medical Research supporting multidisciplinary projects to accelerate progress in medical research on how cells interact with their environments.

The team of 17 cell biologists and physical scientists including, Yale faculty members Eric R. Dufresne, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and physics and Thomas D. Pollard, Chair and Higgins Professor of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology; will develop methods to quantitatively measure, model, and manipulate live cells.

Leslie M. Loew, professor of cell biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center is the principal investigator for the grant, which is one of only five National Technology Centers for Networks and Pathways.

The three core technology projects are designed to study how cells control the location of their molecular components and how that distribution is used to optimize cell functions. Wound healing and muscle contraction are examples of biological processes that rely on interacting pathways and communication among genes, proteins and cells.

"Our group is developing non-invasive methods for manipulating matter with light. We use our Holographic Optical Tweezer (HOT) systems to trap, pull, position, and twist up to about one hundred microparticles simultaneously," said Dufresne. "We will stimulate individual cells with precisely coordinated biochemical and mechanical signals to quantify their dynamic response. Using multiple probes together, we will be able to measure cooperative effects in cell signaling."

Pollard's team will use calibrated fluorescent microscopy to quantify precisely the number and physical arrangement of actin molecules at the leading edge of single-celled amoebas as they move. "Investigating different aspects of polarity in diverse systems will let us discover common themes that reveal the fundamental principles," he said.

"By focusing on biomedical problems and issues, we ensure that the new technologies we develop will ultimately have a positive impact on health," says Loew.

Yale University

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