NIH awards RIT scientist $1.7M to study organelle growth

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

September 19, 2022 -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York a five-year, $1.7 million grant to study how cells control the size of organelles.

The Maximizing Investigators' Research Award for Early Stage Investigators supports research that can accelerate the development of new technologies for disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. In this case, for neurodegenerative diseases.

The award recipient, Lishibanya Mohapatra, plans to use mathematical modeling and simulations to quantitatively analyze the mechanisms used by cells to maintain competing structures in a shared pool of building blocks. Misregulation in organelle size has been associated with a number of diseases, which is why understanding the mechanism behind organelle size could help with disease treatment.

To determine how and when misregulation occurs, mathematical modeling was deemed the best approach. It's a systematic and cost-effective way to hypothesize and quantitatively describe how different proteins might interact with each other, Mohapatra said.

She and her team will model two types of organelles: actin structures and nucleoli. Abnormalities in the assembly of the organelles are associated with either amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Mohapatra plans to create experiments that can test the predictions made by the various quantitative models.

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