Insights into Human Complexity

OverallSchematic.pngNot just 1 or 2 molecules, but 100s to 100,000s of different types of proteins, define the behavior of a single cell, and in turn, trillions of cells contribute to an individual’s health. How do scientists make sense of this complexity?

First, we embrace the complexity, putting a priority on understanding biological function and how the material composition is designed to achieve this function rather than focusing on a single molecule or cell type.

An analogy is that instead of just looking at the composition of bark in a single tree, we also ask how is the forest organized. How does the environment (the soil, location & type of other plants, sunlight, weather) around that one tree influence its growth & health, and what is it about the design of the bark that enables the tree to thrive in its environment?

For human cells, this means we design experiments in the lab to observe how cells interact with their neighboring cells; and develop computer-based tools to identify functional patterns of genes, proteins and metabolites that enable the cells to behave in specific ways. We also relate these findings to the big picture – how what we’re observing in cells reflects the health and activities of the humans from which they came.


Qutub Lab

How are Human Cells Designed?

Did you know that hundreds of thousands of different types of proteins contribute to behaviors of a single human cell, and that each of our bodies is composed of trillions of cells?


Why are cells engineered with this complexity? What principles are so fundamental to cellular design that they impact the way we respond to drugs or self-repair?

Answering these questions means we could define what healthy entails for human cells and open the door for therapies to re-engineer cells.

Techniques.pngWe develop integrated computational and experimental methods to answer key questions about the behaviors of stem, neurovascular and neuronal cells from their molecular signaling to tissue formation. Essential protein pathways involved in how humans adapted to process oxygen – hypoxia-inducible pathways – guide these cells. By combining emerging methods in data science, modeling and cell-based assays we uncover how these hypoxia-inducible pathways connect with thousands of others to change the way cells grow, sense and communicate. We use the information we learn from these studies and the computational tools we build to better target therapies for cancer patients and propose new strategies for regenerating brain tissue.

Click to learn about research in the Qutub Lab.