UCLA and NASA Partner on 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.

From UCLA:
UCLA and NASA Partner to Form New Institute for Cell Mimetic Space Exploration (CMISE), Ultimately Leading to a ‘Lab on a Chip’

Date: February 10, 2003
Contact: Pamela Corante ( pcorante@support.ucla.edu )
Phone: 310-206-8788

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 Engineering and UCLA associate vice chancellor for research. “With an automated system, we can conduct scientific tests without risking human lives,” he added.

“Using nature to help us develop fresh ideas for better space flight is an idea whose time has come,” said Scott Hubbard, director of NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “I am delighted that NASA will be working with such a wide variety of university scientists and students from a number of disciplines to help enable future space exploration.”

Carlo Montemagno, the Roy and Carol Doumani Professor at UCLA, is co-director of CMISE. “We’re marrying information processing with physical interactions,” Montemagno said. “We’re not replicating the cell, but understanding how it communicates.”

“For future developments in sensors, devices and systems for mission needs, NASA is looking to biology for inspiration. That is what the UCLA institute is all about,” said Meyya Meyyappan, director of the Center for Nanotechnology at NASA Ames. “The UCLA scientists will look at the fusion of biotechnology with an emerging field like nanotechnology and an established field like information technology.”

Funded in large part by a five-year, $15 million grant from NASA, with renewal for another five years for a ten-year total of $30 million, CMISE will concentrate on four interdisciplinary research paths: energetics, metabolics, systematics and CMISESat.

Energetics develops minuscule power generators to power the hybrid systems.

Metabolics focuses on the concept of using a biological cell, intracellular components and molecular transducers to sense and control a single cell.

Systematics applies to the technologies of the previous two groups along with its own micro- and nanotechnology to scale up to larger systems.

The fourth research area, CMISESat, is a program housed at Arizona State University that teaches students how to build small ? one pound ? satellites that can be launched into space. These small satellites will serve as test beds to demonstrate that cell mimetic technology can work in space.

In addition to the research component, CMISE will offer an interdisciplinary outreach and educational program geared towards students. The goal is to foster an appreciation for scientific research among junior high, high school, undergraduate and graduate students.

CMISE will be headquartered at UCLA in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering. The program operates with the collaboration of an interdisciplinary team of scientists from UCLA, NASA, Arizona State University, the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine.

-UCLA-



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