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IIT-Madras to help find how organs ‘talk to each other’

IIT-Madras to help find how organs ‘talk to each other’

We know that our organs talk to each other, but we don’t know just how. Soon, researchers will be able to find out, for example, which genes are responsible for alerting the brain that we are hungry and which ones are responsible for telling us when we are full.

Researchers at IIT Madras have developed a computational approach called ‘MultiCens’ to understand interactions between genes responsible for inter-organ communication within the body.

Exchange of information among organs and tissues is critical for functioning and survival of all living organisms. Each human cell has about 20,000 genes. All genes will not be switched on at the same time. We can find out which proteins are active by identifying the active genes. Some of these proteins will be responsible for sending signals to other organs of the body, said Manikandan Narayanan, faculty, department of computer science and engineering at IIT Madras and corresponding author of the
research paper published in peer-reviewed journal PLOS Computational Biology. ‘MultiCens’ (Multilayer/Multitissue network Centrality measures) tools were developed by the co-authors of the paper and applied on publicly available gene activity measurements from tissue samples.

“We can identify which genes are important for functions within the organ and which genes are important in the communication between the organs and whether they are important for the whole body,” said Narayanan.

Molecular basis of such communication has long been studied, but genome-wide screens for genes and other biomolecules mediating tissue-tissue signalling aren’t available. “This inter-organ communication network (ICN) allows organisms to adapt to changes in their environment, assess energy reserves, and maintain their overall
wellbeing,” he said.

The paper was co-authored by IIT Madras researchers Dr Tarun Kumar, Dr Sanga Mitra, Professor Balaraman Ravindran and Intel corporation researcher Dr Ramanathan Sethuraman.

Many molecules serve as messengers in ICN. They affect key aspects such as growth, survival, and cell death. Previous studies, mostly conducted on fruit flies, have revealed highly complex ICNs.

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