University professor awarded NSF grant An associate professor at The University of South Dakota was awarded almost a half million dollars from the National Science Foundation for her study of cells.
Dr. Kathy Eyster will receive $478,818 over the next four years to study how cells communicate with one another.
"If we can fundamentally understand how cells talk to each other in a healthy state then perhaps we can gain a better understanding of what happens
in a diseased state when signals go awry," Eyster, of the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences at USD, said.
Just as an individual in a team must know how to communicate with fellow teammates for the group to be effective so must individual cells communicate with other cells for the organism to be able to function.
"I want to know how cells talk to each other," Eyster said. "The language of communication is chemical. Cells receive multiple signals from multiple cells. In the past we could only study how one signal was sent at a time, but now we have the tools to study multiple signals."
In a multicellular organism the cells must communicate with each other in order to coordinate and integrate functions such as metabolism, growth and reproduction. Each cell will be receiving chemical signals that are different according to the source.
An analogy would be to compare oneself to a single cell. If you were standing outside on your front lawn you can easily identify the location of a dog barking, which is different from the smell of the rose bush next to you, which is different from being able to locate by sight the bright blue bucket your child left by the front porch. Your senses are picking up constant input so that you can interpret your environment and react accordingly.
Individual cells do the same thing. Different cells send out different types of chemical messages and the receiving cell must know how to interpret them.
Eyster, whose background is in reproductive endocrinology, (reproductive hormones) will study cell communication in the ovary.
"I'm using the ovary as a model not only because my background is in this area but because it has a use in a global sense as well. (Certain cells within) the ovary have a well defined life cycle so this is a good model to study in a developmental sense," she said.
The cells Eyster will study undergo a cycle of growth, function and regression during a short period of time, which make them ideal candidates for this study.
The grant will pay for the assistance of two undergraduate students each summer and provide travel support for Eyster to give lectures on the technologies used in her research at other universities throughout the state.
Many of the tools Eyster uses in her lab are cutting-edge technologies that have been developed in recent years.
in the study of genes and proteins.