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NIGMS awards 'Glue Grant' to create virtual cell

In an effort to "glue" together large groups of scientists pursuing some of the biggest unsolved problems in biomedicine today, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences has provided $5 million for the first of five years to a consortium of basic scientists called the Alliance for Cellular Signaling (AFCS). NIGMS anticipates spending a projected total of $25 million on the project over the course of five years.

This innovative way to fund science grew out of NIGMS' consultations with leaders in the scientific community who said repeatedly that the thorniest biological problems require the expertise and input of large, multifaceted groups of scientists.

Glue grants aim to do just that. "The purpose of the glue grant is to help address problems that are beyond the reach of individual investigators," said Dr. Marvin Cassman, director of NIGMS. "The idea is to provide resources to a lot of people working together to collaboratively attack these problems."

Just what will the AFCS tackle? How cells talk.

The project will set out to study all aspects of cellular communications in two cell types: cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells that can beat in a dish) and B-cells (immune cells that are accustomed to roving around the bloodstream carrying out duties for the body). According to Dr. Alfred G. Gilman, a pharmacologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and leader of the AFCS effort, a few characteristics helped him and his colleagues to narrow the search to finding an "ideal cell" to study. The team sought "interesting" cells that could also live in a plastic lab dish long enough for scientists to study their features in great detail.

After much internal debate, the AFCS team chose to study cardiomyocytes and B-cells from the mouse, a mammalian model system that Gilman says is "extremely relevant to human health problems."

A key goal of the effort is to map out in both cell varieties the vast number o
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Contact: Alison Davis
davisa@nigms.nih.gov
301-496-7301
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
4-Sep-2000


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