Cell Shorts | A new window into heart cells

Cell Shorts | A new window into heart cells


I think I always knew that I wanted to
be in science… but I didn’t know where I was gonna end up plugging in and rooting. Now that I’m where I am — I am super excited about trying to understand biological systems and how we can engineer them so they do the work that we want them to do. My name is Christopher Chen — I’m at Boston University. I run the tissue microfabrication laboratory. And we study how cells can be organized into tissues. We are really interested in trying
to take cells that are cardiomyocytes and get them to organize into a cardiac muscle tissue. Sarcomeres are the basic unit that heart tissue is using to generate contractile power for beating. Recently, we’ve been trying to
understand how sarcomeres are formed, because there are many situations where it appears that in disease settings those sarcomere structures are abnormally formed. The Allen Institute cell lines were critical for our study… because they have cell lines
where different proteins are labeled… to allow us to track which proteins are where. What we found is that sarcomeres form initially at the cell matrix adhesions & they pull away from them like boxcars on a train as they
assemble into the rest of the cell. And we could only observe that through live microscopy and observe this process of formation. If we had to do this ourselves, the idea of having to generate all the different labeled constructs on our own would have made this study impossible to do. The Allen Institute’s approach to
generating publicly available resources… it certainly sends a clear message that
what is important in science… is being able to share the
various resources that we have, in order to push science forward. I absolutely believe that this
is the century of biology. I am so excited about all the tools that have been really coming to fruition. As we get better at building these different kinds of cell culture based models of human heart, human kidney, human liver, etc… that these become standard models that researchers can use to understand how different diseases occur… how we intervene in those diseases… and ultimately address people’s health. It’s an amazing time to be in science!

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