Communication is important in all aspects of life. We have the ability to speak and that is how we communicate. But how do our cells communicate? A new research led by the team at the University of Gothenburg has used a new unique combination of methods and mapped the mechanism behind cellular communication.
This helps us know how cells communicate and helps us in understanding how biological systems and diseases work. This research could also help us in understanding the mechanism behind type-2 diabetes.
Communication and synchronization of cells play a vital role in the functioning of the organism and human organs for performing their functions.
The question is how do cells transit from acting as individuals and act as a community. Caroline Beck Adiels, a senior lecturer at the Department of Physics at the University of Gothenburg, said that there is a need to understand the complex and difficult-to-study behaviour of these cells.
Adiels is responsible for the study, published in the scientific journal PNAS, in which the researchers established a method for studying cellular communication.
The study successfully mapped the underlying communication of cells in the metabolic process. They used small culture chambers that allow the control of the environment around the cells. Thanks to one substance in the metabolic chain being auto-fluorescent, i.e., it emits a weak glow when the cell is illuminated at a specific wavelength, the researchers can see how the cells communicate and synchronize.
They chose yeast cells as they were in close resemblance with human cells.
The team focused on glycolytic oscillations, which are a series of chemical reactions during metabolism, where the concentration of substances can pulse or oscillate. They noticed that the cells initially oscillated independent of each other and then shifted to being more synchronized, creating partially synchronized populations of cells.
The team could study cells at an individual level than over an entire cell population, allowing them to see how the cells transform from their individual behavior to coordinate between neighbors. “We have been able to map their behavior both temporally and spatially when something occurs and in which cell,” says Beck Adiels.
The findings help us apply this knowledge in other biological systems where coordinated cell behaviour plays a crucial role. We find such behaviour in cells such as heart muscle cells and in pancreatic cells. This can throw some light on diabetes research.
Adiels added that such understanding of how pancreatic cells are regulated and how they secrete insulin can provide us with vital information in knowing the underlying mechanism behind type 2 diabetes.
The study is a collaboration between eight researchers at Swedish and international universities, and Caroline Beck Adiels emphasizes that this interdisciplinary collaboration has been fundamental in studying the complex behaviour of cells from multiple perspectives.
Martin Mojica-Benavides, David D. van Niekerk, Mite Mijalkov, Jacky L. Snoep, Bernhard Mehlig, Giovanni Volpe, Mattias Goksör, Caroline B. Adiels. Intercellular communication induces glycolytic synchronization waves between individually oscillating cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (6): e2010075118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2010075118