Bda

Center for Biosignatures Discovery Automation

Discovery and understanding of microbial populations in harsh environments such as the oceans will enable insights into biogeochemical cycles, metabolic capabilities, and complex interactions that affect the health of our planet.
 
Diagnosing, understanding and predicting cell function or dysfunction is a key element toward gaining a better understanding of disease and other threats to human health.  This cellular biology knowledge is essential for developing the link between genomics, cell function and disease.  Understanding these interrelationships will aid in the development of diagnostic tools to measure the health status across all dimensions of human health, from defects in single cells to alterations in the normal function of tissues and organs.  Such knowledge could lead to the early diagnosis of major illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke.

The Center for Biosignatures Discovery Automation serves as a headquarters to the Microscale Life Sciences Center (MLSC), a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence in Genomic Science.  Its researchers study different types of cell models to link cell genomics to metabolic and biochemical characteristics.  Traditional population-averaged physiological measurements on large numbers of cells do not adequately capture the mechanisms of disease because gene expression is highly heterogeneous and diseased cells are aberrant.  Researchers in the center address cell-to-cell variations in physiological parameters by conducting studies to quantify cellular activities such as respiration and protein expression at the single-cell level.  By refining the MLSC’s microsystem-based platforms for measuring gene expression and physiological parameters, research can progress to include cell-cell interaction studies, in vivo tissue measurements and in vivo imaging for detection and monitoring.

The center also houses a portion of the work conducted by NEPTUNE, a project to construct a cabled underwater observatory in the northeast Pacific Ocean with high bandwidth and power for real-time oceanographic observations and experiments.  The research team is developing sensing devices and other instruments to gain knowledge of the biological, chemical and physical environments at microbial levels on the sea floor and in the overlying water column.

Major research areas:

  • Understanding of cell proliferation and cell death and their impact on cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease
  • Development of technology to aid in the measurement of cellular events
  • Discovery of new organisms in harsh environments as well as understanding of how microorganisms respond to change in harsh environments – from changes in pH and temperature to events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  

 

Funding: In September 2006, the MLSC was awarded a second five-year $18 million federal grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health.