New Center Aims to Unravel the Molecular Complexities of Biological Systems
News Sep 30, 2008
Scientists must be able to identify, quantify and locate the molecules present in the samples. At Georgia Tech, researchers from the Colleges of Sciences and Engineering have joined forces to create the Center for Bio-Imaging Mass Spectrometry (BIMS), which aims to tackle these types of challenges.
“We organized this center in 2007 when we saw the enormous potential of mass spectrometry imaging tools and realized that we had a unique ensemble of people at Georgia Tech that would enable us to excel in this field,” said Al Merrill, a professor in the School of Biology and the Smithgall Chair in Molecular Cell Biology.
As a cell biologist, Merrill sees potential in the ability of mass spectrometry imaging to detect all of the important molecules that control cell behavior instead of just a few. Another advantage to mass spectrometry is the ability to test whether all of the cells are being affected in the same ways.
His laboratory uses mass spectrometry to profile sphingolipids, a family of thousands of metabolites that are involved in cell-cell communication and intracellular signaling. He also studies the types and amounts of these metabolites that control whether cells grow or die.
“With mass spectrometry, we have not only been able to profile these compounds, but also to find new metabolites we think are important in inflammation, aging and cancer,” added Merrill.
The BIMS center at Georgia Tech includes researchers like Merrill who propose biological and clinical problems that may be solved by mass spectrometry imaging. It also brings together researchers who are improving current mass spectrometry imaging technologies and developing innovative techniques, and researchers who are analyzing the large sets of complicated data collected by mass spectrometry systems.
With the advances in software and hardware, the use of mass spectrometry in the life sciences promises to become even more prevalent and diversified for systems biology research.