Peter Mac’s Dr Ian Parish has, with international colleagues, secured a 1.5 million Euro ($AUD 2.47M) grant to examine how cell-to-cell communication started in the earliest forms of life.

This project is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation which supports research tackling the big unanswered questions of our existence.

“We are excited and honoured to have been given this opportunity by the VW Foundation”, says Dr Parish, who also has an appointment with University of Melbourne.

“It will allow us to gain unprecedented insights into the complex spatial organization of molecules at the cell surface, and its importance for multicellular life.”

His project will map and describe the role of proteins called tetraspanins which are found on the surface of cells.

Tetraspanins exist in multi-celled but not single-celled life, and are thought to have played a role in this major leap in the evolution of complex life some 600 million years ago.

These proteins play a not yet fully understood role in communication between cells to co-ordinate basic functions like growth, differentiation and tissue organisation.

In this research, immune cells will be used as a model to map how tetraspanins control cell-to-cell communication.

Dr Parish will work with Professor Ralf Jungmann, Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, and Professor Maartje Bastings, Director of the Programmable Biomaterials Laboratory in the EPFL School of Engineering in Switzerland.

This international team will “employ a multidisciplinary approach, incorporating our expertise in materials engineering, imaging and cell biology, to gain novel insights into the basic principles of life”, Dr Parish says.

Contacts:

For more information contact the Peter Mac Communications team on 0417 123 048.