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School of Medicine
Center for Epigenetics
The sequence of the human genome contains the genetic blueprint – instructions for life. However, it has become increasingly clear that the control of genes lies outside of DNA sequence, either in the form of chemical tags on the DNA or proteins that bind to DNA. The IBBS Epigenetics Center – the only one of its kind in the nation – brings together experts in biochemistry, genetics, medicine and biostatistics to increase understanding of how cells establish and maintain control of genes and what happens when cells lose these controls. This work has implications for neurobehavioral diseases, most cancers, all aspects of development, most chronic disease, and environmental effects on human health.
Center for Sensory Biology
Animals have developed intricately specialized systems to receive, process, and interpret information from the outside world. Research has revealed that similar molecules and biochemical pathways are involved in functions that seem very different – for example, detecting light, seeing in color, tasting, smelling, hearing, feeling and touch, and the ability to sense temperature or pain. Research in this center holds great promise in the development of new approaches to preventing and treating blindness, hearing loss, and chronic pain in particular.
Center for Cell Dynamics
There is incredible complexity in the ability of cells to retain their shapes providing structure to certain tissues or organs like skin, for example, or to change shape, crawling around, for instance is characteristic of metastatic cancer cells. These functions require tens of thousands of biochemical reactions every second in living cells, which researchers can only fully understand if they can observe these reactions in living cells in real time. Center researchers are creating new technologies such as biosensors, microscopes, and computer programs that can help scientists visualize how cells divide and move; this in turn will shed new light on how cells control their behaviors.
Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research
Two of the most urgent global health problems are obesity and diabetes. CMOR researchers are concentrating on answering three questions that are key in efforts to control these devastating conditions: How do cells use sugars and fats to build molecules required for survival? How do cells regulate the conversion of food into energy? And how does the body regulate levels of hormones and other chemicals in response to available nutrients? Focusing on metabolism at a cellular level, researchers from a range of disciplines – including chemistry, genetics, computational sciences, cell biology, and clinical research – are looking at factors that influence cell survival, growth, and aging.
Center on Drug Addiction [no link available]
One of biology’s great unsolved mysteries is how brief exposure to certain stimuli – like drugs of abuse – can generate long-lasting, sometimes lifelong, changes in behaviors such as learning and memory. Learning, memory, and addiction all are similar in that each depends on experience. The goal of the scientists affiliated with this center is to learn more about addictive behavior, in order to ultimately combat this serious public health problem.
High Throughput Biology Center
In order to accelerate hypothesis-driven research and to speed development of new hypotheses, high-throughput biology enables researchers to conduct large-scale experiments, testing or examining hundreds – even thousands – of samples at one time. High-throughput approaches take advantage of the expertise of scientists in a number of disciplines including biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. These specialists come together to build equipment, design experiments, and analyze data.
Center for Transport Biology [no link available]
We learn in grade school that the human body is more than 60 percent water, yet we don't fully understand how that water stays contained and how it is transported within the body. Failure to properly regulate transport of water and salts into and out of cells can lead to diseases like cystic fibrosis, or medical conditions like hypertension or diarrhea. This center brings together experts in genetics with clinical and basic science researchers to advance understanding of how molecules involved in transport affect the function of the lung, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract, for example.