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From organelles to cells, to organs, to an animal — it’s all connected in one big network.
From organelles to cells, to organs, to an animal — it’s all connected in one big network.

What is 4D Cellular Physiology?

4D Cellular Physiology, an upcoming research area at Janelia, will investigate the function, structure, and mechanisms of communication of cells in tissues with an aim of expanding our understanding of animal cells and how they collectively give rise to organ functions and body homeostasis.

Cell and molecular biology have made enormous strides by studying simpler cells (bacteria, yeast) or mammalian cells in culture. However, many aspects of animal physiology involve diverse cell types communicating within tissues, an environment that cannot be recapitulated by growing cells in a dish. Janelia feels that now is an opportune time for the fields of cell biology and physiology to collide and to embrace the challenge of understanding how cells work in the context of organs and tissues of the body.

In the name “4D Cellular Physiology”, the term “Cellular Physiology” references the challenge of measuring cellular or subcellular phenomena in tissues and connecting this information, through computation and theory, to age-old questions of organ function posed at a macroscopic level by physiologists. 4D references Janelia’s unique strength in using microscopy as a key tool for investigating cell structure through high resolution 3D imaging and measuring or manipulating temporal changes (4D) in cell function and behavior.

There is much to discover about how cells work in tissues. In this journey, we will be encountering new phenomena, and visualizing structures that have never been seen. We will discovery ways in which cells exchange information that are hard to imagine at the moment. We will be challenged to develop new theories of how networks of cells collectively confer organ-level functions. We will strive to understand disease at a mechanistic cellular and molecular level, with potentially profound implications for medicine. We will be confronting the fundamental principles of metazoan life—how billions or trillions of cells can self-organize into larger beings that move, replicate, and survive on this ever-changing planet.

 

CellMap, a Janelia project team, will produce a 3D high-resolution visual atlas of tissues for 21st century histology and pathology.

 

What is CellMap?

CellMap, a new Janelia project team, will produce a 3D high-resolution visual atlas of tissues for 21st century histology and pathology. Utilizing the focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) technology developed by Harald Hess and Shan Xu at Janelia, CellMap will illuminate the unique internal structures and morphologies for all cell types in the body. CellMap, a multidisciplinary effort of biologists, engineers, chemists, and computer vision scientists, builds upon FlyEM, a Janelia effort to produce the first full first full brain connectome of Drosophila, and COSEM, which illuminated the subcellular structures of tissue culture cells. Janelia also is at the forefront of correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM), which also is likely to play an important role in this project.

CellMapCellMap’s product will be a quantitative, annotated visual dataset of intracellular structures, cell shapes, and cell-cell contacts that will be shared with the scientific community to advance research. We imagine that this high-resolution image database of tissues will complement single-cell genomic/proteomic data being generated by the Human Cell Atlas and other efforts.

CellMap will launch in Fall 2021. We look forward to collaborating with many scientists in exploring the structures of the many remarkable cells in the body.

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