Advances for studying cells and simulating whole cells

1. Researchers have shown that cells can grow and function on a carpet of small upright needles made of semiconductors – so-called nanowires.

“We have developed a new method that makes it possible for us to see how the cells function when they are impaled on carpets of nanowires. We think that the technique has great potential and that it could be used in laboratories within a couple of years to develop. For example, it could be used by the pharmaceutical industry to test new drugs for a variety of diseases including neurological problems, cancer and heart disease”, explains Karen Martinez, who is group leader of the BioNano group, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen.

Nanophysicists Jesper Nygård and Claus Sørensen, Niels Bohr Institute are in charge of the development of these very small needles – nanowires – with a diameter of approx. 100 nanometers, that is to say 10,000 times smaller than 1 millimeter and Karen Martinez is responsible for the knowledge of the function and handling of cells

2. University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Elijah Roberts and chemistry professor Zaida Luthey-Schulten built a computer model of a bacterial cell that accurately simulates the behavior of actual cells. Researchers have built a computer model of the crowded interior of a bacterial cell that – in a test of its response to sugar in its environment – accurately simulates the behavior of living cells. The new “in silico cells” are the result of a collaboration between experimental scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biology in Germany and theoretical scientists at the University of Illinois using the newest GPU (graphics processing unit) computing technology.

he simulation of production of a sugar transporter protein (yellow dots) in the bacterium E. coli in response to sugar in the environment. Grey dots are ribosomes. Pink circles represent messenger RNA. Green circles are repressor molecules that shut down transcription when they bind to the sugar transporter gene in the bacterial DNA (purple zone). | Image by Luthey-Schulten Group

PLos Computational Biology – Noise Contributions in an Inducible Genetic Switch: A Whole-Cell Simulation Study

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