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UCLA and NASA partner to form new institute for Cell Mimetic Space Exploration

UCLA and NASA have partnered to combine the latest advances in biology and engineering at the Institute for Cell Mimetic Space Exploration (CMISE), which officially opens on Monday, Feb. 10. CMISE will meld the molecular world with aerospace technology to create minuscule monitoring systems, or a "lab on a chip," that could make research safer and more efficient on earth and in space.

UCLA researchers coined the term "cell mimetics" because their work pointed to the need to fuse biotechnology, nanotechnology and informatics into a new field of study. Based on the adaptive capability of the biological cell, CMISE's findings ultimately will apply to earthbound as well as space uses, and will have a tremendous impact in the engineering, medical, energy and defense fields, among others.

The eventual applications of CMISE's "lab on a chip" are profound. From chemical and bacteriological agent detection to early disease diagnosis to a "smart spacesuit," CMISE scientists hope to be able to put the complex functions of a full-sized scientific laboratory onto chip-sized monitoring devices.

CMISE takes the biological cell and enhances it by adding molecular machines capable of monitoring and modifying the cell's condition. These molecular devices can be as small as one ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair.

In order for cells to become the next highest system -- cells to tissue, tissue to organs, organs to physiological systems and so forth to an entire organism -- whole collections of hybrid systems must communicate to coordinate their actions. CMISE seeks to mimic how cells form themselves into progressively more complex systems, in much the same way that ants cooperate to pass along and process information in order to operate their colony.

"Now we will be able to realize our dream of transcending from the cell to the galaxy," said institute director Chih-Ming Ho, the Ben Rich-Lockheed Martin Professor in the School of Engineeri
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Contact: Pamela Corante
pcorante@support.ucla.edu
310-206-8788
University of California - Los Angeles
10-Feb-2003


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