Basic science research from the investigators at UT Southwestern Medical Center might explain how human cells communicate. In addition, since the research looked at the structure and function of cilia, these discoveries might be useful for the development of nanotechnologies.
From the UT Southwestern Medical Center press office, about the research published in the latest Cell:
“There are cilia all over within our brain, and we don’t have a clue about what they’re doing,” Dr. Snell said. [William Snell, Ph.D., a professor of cell biology at UT Southwestern -ed.]
He and his team use the microscopic green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which has two individual cilia. This alga allows researchers to manipulate genes and study the resulting effects on cilia in a way that would be impossible in animals such as mice.
“Chlamy is one of the few model organisms in which it’s possible to do these kinds of studies,” Dr. Snell said.
The team focused on fertilization of the alga, a process that requires a cilium to bind to a molecule on a cilium from a cell of the opposite mating type. They found that when the external molecule binds to a cilium, it activates an enzyme that signals the start of a chain of chemical reactions.
Analysis showed that the cilia signaling process was similar to that found in human cells, such as those in the nose involved in the sense of smell and those in the developing nervous system that sculpt our brains.
Uncovering this series of reactions will make it possible to test, for instance, drugs that can affect cilia, in the hope of finding substances that would also be effective in higher animals, Dr. Snell said.
The press release…