UW News

cell biology


February 13, 2020

Immune cells consult with neighbors to make decisions

An illustration showing immune system cells migrating to a wound site.

Scientists and physicians have long known that immune cells migrate to the site of an infection, which individuals experience as inflammation — swelling, redness and pain. Now, researchers at the University of Washington and Northwestern University have uncovered evidence that this gathering is not just a consequence of immune activation. Immune cells count their neighbors before deciding whether or not the immune system should kick into high gear.


February 4, 2020

First-of-its-kind hydrogel platform enables on-demand production of medicines and chemicals

a water-based gel that is used in molecular biology research

A team of chemical engineers has developed a new way to produce medicines and chemicals and preserve them using portable “biofactories” embedded in water-based gels known as hydrogels. The approach could help people in remote villages or on military missions, where the absence of pharmacies, doctor’s offices or even basic refrigeration makes it hard to…


December 30, 2019

Life could have emerged from lakes with high phosphorus

A lake in Africa with flamingoes and zebras along its shore.

Life as we know it requires phosphorus, which is scarce. So, how did a lifeless environment on the early Earth supply this key ingredient? A new UW study, published Dec. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds an answer to this problem in certain types of carbonate-rich lakes.


October 15, 2019

UW’s Ashleigh Theberge receives Packard Fellowship for research on cell communication signals

Person looking at camera

Ashleigh Theberge, a University of Washington assistant professor of chemistry, has been named a 2019 Packard Fellow for her research on cell signaling. Every year since 1988, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has awarded Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering to early-career scientists to pursue the types of innovative projects that often fall outside…


August 12, 2019

First cells on ancient Earth may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes

Scientists have discovered that the building blocks of proteins can stabilize cell membranes. This finding may explain how the first cells emerged from the primordial soup billions of years ago: The protein building blocks could have stabilized cell membranes against salt and ions that were present in ancient oceans. In addition, membranes may have been a site for these precursor molecules to co-localize, a potential mechanism to explain what brought together the ingredients for life.


May 29, 2019

New study identifies patterns of growth in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

In a paper published May 29 in Nature, scientists report that the growth of chronic lymphocytic leukemia is apt to follow one of three trajectories: relentlessly upward, steadily level or something in between. The particular course the disease takes is tightly linked to the genetic makeup of the cancer cells, particularly the number of growth-spurring “driver” mutations they contain.


April 15, 2019

Synthetic peptide can inhibit toxicity, aggregation of protein in Alzheimer’s disease, researchers show

a chemical structure of a peptide

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington has developed synthetic peptides that target and inhibit the small, toxic protein aggregates that are thought to trigger Alzheimer’s disease.


December 5, 2017

Living cell membranes can self-sort their components by ‘demixing’

A vacuole in a yeast cell.

Scientists at the University of Washington show for the first time that the complex distribution of molecules within a membrane of a living yeast cell arises through demixing.


July 17, 2017

Material from shellfish delivers a boost to bioassays and medical tests

A close-up view of a virus

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered a simple way to raise the accuracy of diagnostic tests for medicine and common assays for laboratory research. By adding polydopamine — a material that was first isolated from shellfish — to these tests at a key step, the team could increase the sensitivity of these common bioassays by as many as 100 to 1,000 times.


February 16, 2017

Immune cell serves as an essential communications link for migrating cells

Two cells under a microscope

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered that a common type of cell in the vertebrate immune system plays a unique role in communication between other cells. It turns out that these cells, called macrophages, can transmit messages between non-immune cells.


July 21, 2016

An engineered protein can disrupt tumor-promoting ‘messages’ in human cells

Cellular protein

A team of researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Trento in Italy unveiled an engineered protein that they designed to repress a specific cancer-promoting message within cells.


July 11, 2016

UW researchers improve microscopy method to ‘swell’ cellular structures, bringing fine details into view

Proteins in a cell.

Scientists from the University of Washington recently reported a relatively simple method swell the tiny, complex structures within cells, bringing them within range of a common microscope’s resolving range.


June 17, 2015

Plants make big decisions with microscopic cellular competition

A picture of stomata.

A team of University of Washington researchers has identified a mechanism that some plant cells use to receive complex and contradictory messages from their neighbors.


September 16, 2014

Health Sciences Digest: Wearable Artificial Kidney, worker wellness, chromosome sort safeguard

Wearable Artificial Kidney

Health Sciences Digest: Wearable Artificial Kidney safety testing to begin, low-wage workers value employer wellness initiatives, cells simply avoid chromosome errors


November 24, 2013

How living cells solved a needle in a haystack problem to generate electrical signals

Advanced Light Source

Filtered from a vast sodium sea, more than 1 million calcium ions per second gush through our cells’ pores to generate charges


August 7, 2013

UW researchers report on genome of aggressive cervical cancer that killed Henrietta Lacks

A 1945 photograph of Henrietta and David Lacks.

Henrietta Lacks was the subject of bestselling book on the HeLa immortal cell line, the most used of its kind in labs around the world. The UW scientists are the first to publish under new policy, established through agreement with Lacks’ family.