Leaving It up to Chance: How Cells Make Decisions

Leaving It up to Chance:
How Cells Make Decisions

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations Tuesday December 17 at 6:30 PM Belmont Media Center, 9 Lexington St, Belmont MA

Jané Kondev, PhD, Professor of Physics and Chair, Dept of Physics, Brandeis University
Kondev Group

Living cells make decisions all the time about where to go, what to eat, when to divide, and what to become. These decisions are made using protein and DNA molecules which are found in all cells. As first described by Brown and then explained by Einstein more than a hundred years ago, small particles in water undergo random motion due to numerous collisions with water molecules that surround them. This “Brownian motion” of proteins and DNA inside a cell can ultimately result in the decisions being made by a cell to be random. For example, two cells that are genetically identical and placed in the same environment may end up behaving in radically different ways. In this talk I will describe latest findings regarding the random nature of cellular decision making and how they are forcing us to reexamine the most basic ideas about what is life. These findings are also shedding new light on important health related problems like bacterial infections and cancer that affect us all.