Researchers show how to divide and conquer 'social network' of cells

November 9, 2009
Université de Montréal scientists Stephen Michnick and Po Hien Ear have managed the feat of dividing cell networks down to their genesis. Credit: Stephen Michnick; Po Hien Ear, Université de Montréal

On Noah's Ark animals came in twos: male and female. In human bodies trillions of cells are coupled, too, and so are the molecules from which they are composed. Yet these don't come in twos, they are regrouped into indistinguishable clusters. Because these complex cell networks are the backbone of life - and illness - scientists have long searched for ways to splice cell clusters down to their original pairs.

According to a new study in the journal , Université de Montréal scientists Stephen Michnick and Po Hien Ear have managed the feat of dividing cell networks down to their genesis. The discovery could have applications for diseases such as cancer, where blood-thirsty cells could be decoupled to curb their multiplication in the human body.

"We have provided a simple way to decouple one cellular network from another," says Dr. Michnick, a Université de Montréal biochemistry professor and Canada Research Chair in Integrative Genomics. "Once decoupled, we could clearly distinguish what one network was doing versus another."

As part of their study, the researchers reproduced gene networks using baker's yeast - a cellular organism proven to resemble the critical functions of human cells. "We cut out relationships between cells to see which are crucial and which are not," explains Dr. Michnick. "We found that de-coupling permitted growth regulation. One way to attack cancer would be to find that decouple other networks (as we did), slow down its growth and weaken the illness."

More information: The article, "A general life-death selection strategy for dissecting protein functions," published in Nature Methods, was coauthored by Po Hien Ear and Stephen W. Michnick of the Université de Montréal.

Source: University of Montreal (news : web)

Explore further: Researchers discover architecture for fundamental processes of life

Related Stories

Scientists discover gene responsible for brain's aging

January 16, 2009

Will scientists one day be able to slow the aging of the brain and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's? Absolutely - once the genetic coding associated with neuronal degeneration has been unraveled.

Not so sweet: Over-consumption of sugar linked to aging

March 6, 2009

We know that lifespan can be extended in animals by restricting calories such as sugar intake. Now, according to a study published in the journal PLoS Genetics, Université de Montréal scientists have discovered ...

Insomnia is bad for the heart

September 4, 2009

Can't sleep at night? A new study published in the journal Sleep has found that people who suffer from insomnia have heightened nighttime blood pressure, which can lead to cardiac problems. The investigation, which measured ...

Recommended for you

A common mechanism for human and bird sound production

November 27, 2015

When birds and humans sing it sounds completely different, but now new research reported in the journal Nature Communications shows that the very same physical mechanisms are at play when a bird sings and a human speaks.

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.