A trans-Atlantic tie up between scientists at the University of Ulster and the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston could lead to a greater understanding of the triggers that affect cancer cells.
The Boston scientists, led by Professors Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein, have developed a 3-D model of the mammary gland which allows them to study how cells can organize to form tissues and how cancer cells become normal again.
This research, allied to the world-leading bio-imaging technology available at the Centre for Advanced Imaging at UU’s Coleraine campus, could unlock vital secrets about the development of cancer.
Professor Soto, Professor of Anatomy and Cellular Biology at Tufts, is working alongside UU’s Professor Vyvyan Howard, Professor of Bio-Imaging, Dr George McKerr, Director of the Centre for Advanced Imaging and Dr Kurt Saetzler, a lecturer in computational biology.
Professor Soto says: “We think the 3-D model will allow us to study cancer as it occurs. Up to now we have been unable to observe cancer as it begins in real time. We want to see it when it is being born to understand it better. That probably will be achieved our combined expertise by using this model.”
Working with Dr Saetzler, the scientists plan to build a computer model, which will simulate different pathology and biology situations. This will enable the scientists to understand what is happening and to predict an outcome. They will build a model to generate predictions and a biological model to test these predictions. The model will be enhanced by 3D measurements using stereological techniques developed by Vyvyan Howard, Professor of Bio-Imaging at the University of Ulster’s Centre for Molecular Biosciences in Coleraine.
The collaboration between the two centres will be wide ranging:
Professor Soto adds: “We want to establish a bridge between the Boston group and collaborators at UU. We hope that our common interests and complementary knowledge and the expertise of the different members will be very useful in getting this project going in a way that could not be achieved by either of the two groups working alone.
“There are also other members of the Centre for Molecular Biosciences at UU who have expressed an interest in working with my colleagues in Boston. We have found many areas of common interest in which collaborations could take place.”
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