Tackling cells’ mysteries
U.Va.’s new Morphogenesis and Regenerative Medicine Institute will draw researchers from a variety of disciplines to study how human tissue grows.
“It’s a very basic question,” said Barry Gumbiner, new chair of U.Va.’s department of cell biology. “How do you take the one-dimensional code of DNA and turn it into a three-dimensional form?”
Gumbiner and other researchers who study the makeup of cellular tissue call this science morphogenesis, from the roots meaning “to change in form or shape” and “to create.” While the study of cellular creationary code may seem esoteric, its application is one of the hottest pursuits in modern medicine.
“The goal of regenerative medicine, to generate or repair tissues, has a long-term goal of being able to make artificial tissues and organs. More likely in the short term is figuring out ways to make the body regenerate tissues,” he said.
Gumbiner, who is organizing the University’s new Morphogenesis and Regenerative Medicine Institute, envisions a research body of as many as 40 investigators from multiple disciplines working together to understand tissue formation. Specialists in cell biology and genetics would join biomedical engineers, chemists in tissue engineering and physicians in a research building devoted solely to this field.
“The exciting thing here is that although there are people all over the world doing little bits of this, you can’t really point to one university that’s the leader,” he said. “This is a chance for us to make a concerted effort to move into this cutting-edge field and really take the lead.”
Learn more about this interdisciplinary program at www.morphogenesis.virginia.edu.