Changing the social habits of cells could help develop cleaner fuel and fight cancer and diabetes say scientists from The University of Manchester.
The Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology will lead research in the emerging field of systems biology – which involves processing experiments using computer theory and modelling allowing the creation of improved experiments and predictive solutions – to study cell networking.
Scientists in Manchester working on the Systems Biology of Microorganisms (SysMO) research programme believe that modifying the way cells network can adjust their behaviour. Professor Hans Westerhoff, AstraZeneca Professor of Systems Biology and director of the doctoral training centre on systems biology at The University of Manchester, said: “This is a unique opportunity to begin to understand how networking contributes to the functioning of living cells inside and outside our bodies.”
They will run a project to investigate how the yeast used in the manufacture of beer and bread can be adapted into an efficient producer of bioethanol. Another part of their research will investigate lactobacilli - some of which can cause human diseases such as strep throat and rashes while others are safe and used in cheese and yoghurts. The group hope their work will uncover how some networks lead to disease which could allow more efficient and safe food and drug production.
By further integrating mathematics, the researchers hope to produce a large set of equations to describe living cells. This may allow cells to be engineered to benefit the medical and commercial world.
The £18 million SysMO programme spans six countries, UK, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and Norway, and will fund 11 projects that will run for three years in the first instance.