Institute for Cell Mimetic Space Exploration (CMISE)
at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and
Applied Science has been awarded a $2 million grant
from the National Institutes of Health to develop
an automated, chip-based metabolic analysis tool.
cells of the human body are composed of many intricate
subsystems that interact at multiple levels and
are highly sensitive to environmental factors.
Recent studies show that many degenerative health
issues — including diabetes, digestive and kidney
diseases, as well as cancer — actually damage the
cell's metabolic pathways. Metabolics — the study
of the way in which the cellular metabolism works — seeks
to use biological cells, intracellular components
and molecular machines to build a self-regulating
system for sensing and controlling specific environmental
threats. Metabolomics is the mapping of these metabolic
pathways within a cell.
UCLA chemical engineering professor James Liao,
along with a team of researchers, will use the NIH
Roadmap grant to develop a practical tool to aid
in more easily extracting and measuring the metabolites,
the substance produced by the metabolism, in cells.
Though current technologies are available, these
prove impractical on a large scale due to the high
cost and the time-intensive manual labor required.
Much of the complex equipment needed to process metabolites
also is not widely available. The goal of Liao's
work is to find a general technical platform that
will enable health professionals to study the metabolic
pathways of cells in a shorter amount of time, in
a more efficient manner and without a lot of complex
"We are delighted and grateful that the NIH has
chosen to award CMISE a $2 million Roadmap grant.
Their funding will enable us to continue to pursue
our focus on innovating new and better ways to identify,
develop, and promote nano and bio information technologies
for complex multilevel natural and artificial systems," Liao
If Liao and his team are successful, these professionals
will be able to extract metabolite from cells on
what is basically a lab-on-a-chip platform, which
will actually auto-mix tiny amounts of chemical solutions
to prepare the relevant metabolites of the cells
for extraction. The resulting sample will then be
placed onto a second, high-performance liquid chromatography
or HPLC separation chip, which integrates sample
enrichment and separation capabilities, and will
allow the targeted analytes, or targeted chemical
compound, to be more easily viewed in context with
other metabolites. The results of the HPLC chip can
then be sent directly to a specialty lab with mass
spectroscopy capability to provide final results
for the patient.
The practical outcome means a lower cost, less time
spent waiting for results, a more efficient process
and higher accuracy in results for the patient and
Other UCLA researchers working on the automated
chip-based metabolic analysis are Dr. James Lin,
Chih-Ming Ho, Dr. Ren Sun, Dr. Katrina Dipple and
Dr. Edward McCabe. The group also will include Yu-Chong
Tai from Cal-Tech and Terry Lee from City of Hope.
in large part by a five-year, $15-million grant
in 2003 from NASA with a renewal option for another
five years totaling $30 million, CMISE focuses
on four research paths: energetics, metabolics,
systematics and CMISESat, a program at Texas A&M
to teach students how to build one-pound satellites
that can be launched into space. These satellites
will serve as test beds to demonstrate that cell
mimetics technology can work in space.
About the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering
and Applied Science
in 1945, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering
and Applied Science offers 28 academic and professional
degree programs, including an interdepartmental
graduate degree program in biomedical engineering.
Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools among
public universities nationwide, the school is home
to five multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research
centers in space exploration, wireless sensor systems,
nanomanufacturing and defense technologies, funded
by top national and professional agencies. For
more information, visit http://www.engineer.ucla.edu/ .