“Despite the enormous amount of study directed at diabetes, there’s really very little understanding of the collective mechanisms that govern or regulate insulin secretion,” said project director Aaron Dinner, Associate Professor in Chemistry.
A second goal: to control cell behavior and function more generally, which may ultimately culminate in other applications, including the bioremediation of environmental problems. Collaborating with Dinner on the project are Louis Philipson, PhD’82, MD ’86, Professor in Medicine and Director of the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center; and chemistry professors Rustem Ismagilov and Norbert Scherer, SB’82.
The four scientists share an interest in the collective behavior of cells that emerges from a complex ensemble of atoms and molecules working in concert at different scales of time and space. “In a living system you have this hierarchy of coupled time and length scales,” Dinner said. “How is it that all of these different dynamics at one time and length scale get coupled to dynamics at another scale?”
The collaborators have worked together previously in various pairs. “It seemed natural to put those different pair-wise interactions together,” Dinner said.Philipson and Scherer, for example, worked together to pioneer a microscopy method for imaging activity inside beta cells that led up to insulin secretion under different conditions. Ismagilov and Philipson collaborated on a means of efficiently measuring and analyzing beta-cell secretions. And Dinner and Scherer have analyzed the dynamics of an oddly behaving RNA molecule.
Non-intuitive molecular behavior
Dinner and Scherer’s study revealed some non-intuitive, hidden dynamics. They experimented with the molecule in solution, expecting it to move slowly, somewhat like a person walking around in a swimming pool. But after changing the chemical solution they found that the molecule behaved in a non-intuitive way.
“It was as though something was driving it,” Dinner said.
The chemical pulses they had introduced into the molecule’s watery environment were the driving force of the dynamic oscillations they observed. In their next step, they applied the process to a bacterium, coupling cycles inside the cell that would ordinarily operate on different time scales. The scientists then analyzed the bacterium’s response to the chemical pulses for insights into its internal properties.
The similar use of optical, magnetic and spectroscopic techniques is a standard means of probing molecular dynamics. Based on their RNA research, Scherer and Dinner realized that a chemical version of the technique might provide a whole new way of studying cellular dynamics. They call their new technique “chemical perturbation spectroscopy.”
“We measure everything at a single-cell level so we can quantify in detail what each single cell is doing as it evolves through multiple generations,” Scherer said. “These studies are allowing us to lay the groundwork for how to measure perturbations that we apply to cells, and how to do the analysis. Essentially, none of this has been done before, so we have to invent the approach.”
Once the details are worked out, Scherer said, “We expect to be able to target certain cell functions and, let’s say, increase insulin output from the beta cells.”
Steve Koppes | Newswise Science News
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy