The Spatiotemporal Modeling Center (STMC) at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center recently won a 5-year $12 million grant renewal. The grant enables the STMC to continue its research in systems biology. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health uses this program to spur research nationwide in complex biological problems. The STMC is one of only 14 centers in the country that this program currently funds.
Bridget Wilson, PhD, of the UNM Cancer Center serves as the grant’s lead scientist at the STMC. “Our center is an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional program,” she says. “We take advantage of the scientific and technological strengths in New Mexico, particularly in imaging and computation.” Scientists working at the STMC include faculty at the UNM Health Sciences Center, the UNM School of Engineering, the UNM College of Arts and Sciences, as well as scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratories.
Systems biology is the study of how the parts of a biological system affect one another. A biological system can be as tiny as a single cell and its parts, as large as a person, or even a whole population. Cells compose all biological systems so systems biologists use many different tools to look at cells and the molecules that affect them.
Scientists at the STMC use powerful microscopes to see molecules on a cell’s surface. They develop computer programs that crunch millions of data points to yield meaningful information, such as the behavior of a cellular receptor or a molecule that binds to it. They also invent and use new tools to learn what happens inside a cell when receptors are activated.
Understanding how systems of cells work together enables scientists to learn important details of diseases that affect New Mexicans. For example, STMC biologists and engineers created model systems to study how allergens trigger diseases such as asthma and food allergies. STMC scientists use similar systems to learn how receptors on ovarian and colon cancer cells help tumors escape targeted drugs. They will use this learning to design more accurate drugs.
The STMC also provides training and public outreach. The STMC’s training program serves scientists, engineers and physicians. It encompasses all levels from undergraduate through faculty positions and encourages women and minority trainees. Twenty-nine of the program’s alumni are now at universities, industry laboratories, or medical schools.
The STMC’s public outreach program includes the annual “Art of Systems Biology” show, which features stunning images culled from actual research. “The images are beautiful,” Wilson says. “And the show gives us a chance to share our science with the community.”
About Bridget Wilson, PhD
Bridget Wilson, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Pathology at the UNM School of Medicine. She holds the Maralyn S. Budke Endowed Professorship in Cancer Cell Signaling and serves as Director of the New Mexico Center for Spatiotemporal Modeling of Cell Signaling at the UNM Health Sciences Center. Wilson received her PhD in Medical Sciences from University of New Mexico. A cell biologist with over 20 years’ experience, she studies signal transduction, intracellular trafficking and membrane biology. Her laboratory specializes in innovative imaging approaches, including live cell, fluorescence-based assays and electron microscopy. Wilson has been a research program leader at UNM’s NCI-designated Cancer Center since 2005 and was elected an AAAS Fellow in 2012.
About the Grant
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health supports the research reported in this publication under Award Number 2P50GM085273-06, Principal Investigator: Bridget S Wilson, PHD. The content of this publication is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
About the New Mexico Center for the Spatiotemporal Modeling of Cell Signaling
Research at the STMC emphasizes the development of new single cell and single molecule technologies to generate improved quantitative data for modeling and the creation of new computational and mathematical tools for image analysis, hypothesis generation and prediction. We support training and outreach programs intended to recruit and equip a new generation of interdisciplinary researchers for successful careers focused on quantitative, systems level analyses of complex biomedical processes. Our infrastructure is designed to sustain systems biology research and training as a long-term area of scientific emphasis at the University of New Mexico and in the partnering Los Alamos National Laboratory and to lead the advancement of women and minorities within the discipline of systems biology. The STMC is one of 14 currently funded National Centers for Systems Biology funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Learn more at: http://stmc.health.unm.edu/
About the UNM Cancer Center
The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in the state. One of just 68 premier NCI-Designated Cancer Centers nationwide, the UNM Cancer Center is recognized for its scientific excellence, contributions to cancer research, the delivery of high quality, state of the art cancer diagnosis and treatment to all New Mexicans, and its community outreach programs statewide. Annual federal and private funding of over $77 million supports the UNM Cancer Center’s research programs. The UNM Cancer Center treats more than 60 percent of the adults and virtually all of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer, from every county in the state. It is home to New Mexico’s largest team of board-certified oncology physicians and research scientists, representing every cancer specialty and hailing from prestigious institutions such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic. Through its partnership with Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, the UNM Cancer Center brings world-class cancer care to the southern part of the state; its collaborative clinical programs in Santa Fe and Farmington serve northern New Mexico and it is developing new collaborative programs in Alamogordo and in Roswell/Carlsbad. The UNM Cancer Center also supports several community outreach programs to make cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment available to every New Mexican. Learn more at www.cancer.unm.edu.