Research focused on single cells can open the door to new discoveries about disease processes

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Newswise – STONY BROOK, NY, June 22, 2022 – Gábor Balázsi, PhD, and his research team at Stony Brook University’s Laufer Center and Department of Biomedical Engineering are embarking on a new way of researching the cells, the building blocks of life and which often trigger disease when their behavior changes.

Balázsi’s lab develops a predictive and quantitative understanding of biological processes such as cellular decision-making and the survival and evolution of cell populations. Recently, they acquired a new instrument for analyzing cells called FluidFM OMNIUM. The lab is one of the few in the United States to integrate this instrument into cellular systems research. The FluidFM system allows the team to take cellular research to the most direct level possible – by precisely injecting and removing fluids, as well as pushing, pulling and relocating individual living cells.

“This instrument puts our lab at the forefront of single cell research approaches,” says Balázsi, Henry Laufer Professor at the Louis and Beatrice Laufer Center for Physical & Quantitative Biology, professor of biomedical engineering and member of the Stony Brook Cancer Center. He believes this type of cell research is essential to advancing 21st Medicine of the century.

“Millions of cells in our tissues contain billions of molecules. At the center of the molecules is DNA storing vital information in protein-coding genes. Yet how these genes influence the behavior of individual cells and therefore cell populations is not fully understood,” says Balázsi.

He explains: “Changes in DNA sequences, but also alterations in the amount of molecules without any DNA changes can alter the behaviors of individual cells, allowing cell populations to adapt to new environments. Yet, to know how genes and gene networks control cell populations, we must first understand how the dynamics of gene networks affect individual cells, and therefore cell populations. Answering these questions will help us better understand the behavior and evolution of cell populations, which underlie cancer progression, microbial and anticancer resistance, and other disease-related cellular changes.

The FluidFM system was developed from a series of technological discoveries and innovations, leading to what is to date an unparalleled capability for repeated intra-cytoplasmic or intra-nuclear, cell-specific delivery and extraction. live cell, direct intra-cytoplasmic or intra-nuclear, as well as non-destructive single cell manipulation.

The Balázsi lab uses FluidFM to precisely modify the genome of single cells and to select, place and study single cells. The system will allow researchers to examine, design and monitor single live cells from multiple types of cell lines linked to cancer development.

The FluidFM OMNIUM cost nearly $275,000. Much of this cost was covered by additional funding from a MIRA grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) (number R35GM122561). In addition to the NIGMS grant, the Office of the Provost, the Laufer Center, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the Office of the Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University each contributed $10,000 to the cost of the instrument.

“Ultimately, if you understand cell populations in terms of what individual cells do, that tells us a lot about many diseases and how collective cellular behaviors emerge in the disease process,” points out Balazsi.

He foresees that future research using FluidFM in his lab and elsewhere could focus on a wide range of medical research, such as applications in bioengineering, stem cell engineering, genome editing, and the question of genetics. and aging.

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