Biology has been revolutionized by the impact of physical forces on cell behaviour as in vivo cells are exposed to a combination of biochemical and physical cues that regulate their function. These revolutions have generated in biologists and physicists a need for new tools to analyze cellular structures. In fact, this was precisely the motivation of the “Quantissue Symposium” organised by Hernán López-Scheir and that was held in the CRG the 13-15th February 2012 in Barcelona (Spain).
The main benefits for attendees have been the gained insights into the quantitative description and analysis of biological processes. This symposium provided also a forum for scientists working at the interface of physical and biological science to discuss technologies, processes and ideas. We want to share with all of you the hot topics in this field and hope that this is also useful for those that were not able to attend!
Mechanical cell forces (pushes, pulls, tensions, compressions) are important regulators of cell development and behaviour because cells use tension to stabilize their structure. But tension, understood as the sum of biochemical stimulus and physical cues, not only gives cells their shape, but also helps to regulate their biochemistry. To understand this complexity of biological systems in the context of development and disease, modelling and biological computer simulation were addressed (we would like to highlight Xavier Treapat’s and James A. Glazier’s talks) and appeared as the common issue among the meeting talks as a powerful approach to resolve and quantify, at the subcellular and even molecular levels, the spatiotemporal dynamics of molecules and processes inside cells.
Alfonso Martínez Arias’ main interest is to understand the molecular basis of embryonic stem cell pluripotency. He spoke about the “sensitivity” inherent to this cellular state to transcriptional noise associated with the transcription factor Nanog.
During lunchtime we have enjoyed a delicious meal in an ideal environment (in front of the Mediterranean sea!) creating an atmosphere that fosters dialogue and debate on thoughts and ideas. Furthermore, the “Quantissue Symposium” offered the alternative to present scientific work in a poster format. We believe this is a very interesting option that has two-way information exchange: the audience is more likely to question and there is a real opportunity for detailed discussion. In addition, we must mention that we were impressed about the quality of the work presented in this design!
We had the opportunity after the Symposium to attend the complementary Workshop:
“Tracking across scales: from single molecules to cells” that was coordinated by Richard Adams, Carl-Philipp Heisenberg, and Marcos González-Gaitán. It was the perfect moment to learn in a more exclusive but also practical environment the latest techniques in the biophysical field.
Our “Quantissue Symposium” home message: Apart from enhancing synergies between different groups, the symposium emphasized that cells are the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms, whereas cellular forces and transcriptional noise are responsible for tissue architecture and shaping the embryo!