Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Dates: Apr 2006-Mar 2011
Summary: Humans are remarkable creatures by virtue of the diverse collection of specialized organs and tissues that are integrated to yield a creature that is probably the most adaptable and influential on the planet. It is essential that the activities of these various organs and tissues are synchronized and coordinated so that waste is minimized and the most efficient orchestration of these various functions is achieved. This process can be called homeostasis. At the simplest level of the single cell, a whole range of homeostatic mechanisms are in place to ensure appropriate functioning of that cell. Levels of homeostatic complexity then increase as one goes to the organ and then to the whole organismal level. However the building blocks of homeostasis - and its 'rules' are established at the simple single cell level. It is at this level that our studies concentrate. To study dynamic living cells, obviously we wish to observe them in a living state. To achieve this we must develop techniques that provide us with windows on what the cell is doing, without disrupting its natural behaviour. By such approaches each year we learn more of the organization and dynamism of cells. Although we may not necessarily 'solve' cellular function we are becoming increasingly aware of the refinements that we are to bring to bear in posing our questions of the functioning of cells. These studies are fundamental, they are not aimed at any particular diseased state; nevertheless it is only by clearly defining what is normal and appreciating the full levels of complexity of which cells are capable that we, and others, can begin to address what is abnormal - and how we operate.