NIGMS awards 'Glue Grant' to create virtual cell

f signals that course through these cells, including -- but not by any means limited to -- those signals communicated through a class of specialized liaison molecules called G proteins. He and the late Dr. Martin Rodbell received the 1994 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering G protein signaling.

According to Gilman, studying mouse cells makes perfect sense since many of the molecules that scientists know are central to communication inside and between cells are nearly identical between the cells of mice and people. Within the next year or so, the complete genetic sequence of the mouse will be spelled out, Gilman predicts, enabling AFCS scientists to inventory the entire collection of genes involved in making mouse cardiomyocytes and B-cells do what they do.

"We hope to create a piece of a virtual cell," said Gilman, adding that he anticipates drug developers will ultimately be able to test new compounds "in silico," meaning that they will have the ability to search for new drugs using a computer alone.

The AFCS project is a meaty effort because thousands of signaling molecules have been identified in cells, and assembling a catalog of all of the possible -- and more importantly, authentic -- interactions among them is a mind-boggling feat.

"Advances in genomics, proteomics, and informatics make the timing right for this bold experiment in how science is conducted," said Dr. Rochelle Long, a pharmacologist at NIGMS. "Al Gilman's vision is to transform the way cell signaling research is done, and he's dedicating his career from this point forward to making this work," she added.

The "Alliance," as the AFCS is also called, is a consortium of approximately 50 scientists working at 20 different academic institutions around the country. AFCS researchers will work in specially designed core laboratories located at several different academic centers, including the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena; the San Francisco Vete

Contact: Alison Davis
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences

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