Brown University

Skip to Navigation

Modeling Method Advances Work on Cellular Processes

April 27, 2017

Brown researchers, including Veronica Ciocanel, a doctoral student in Applied Mathematics, have developed methods to use data from FRAP, an experiment used to study how molecules move inside cells, in ways it’s never been used before. Understanding how proteins and other molecules move around inside cells is important for understanding how cells function. Scientists use an experiment called Fluorescence Recovery after Photobleaching, or FRAP, to investigate this molecular motion, and now Brown University researchers have developed a mathematical modeling technique that makes FRAP much more useful.

Traditionally, FRAP data have been used to measure molecular diffusion — the passive drifting of molecules within the jelly-like cytoplasm inside a cell. But these molecular movements aren't always so passive. In many cellular processes, molecules can be transported actively by molecular motors, which tow molecules around like locomotives dragging lines of freight cars.

"We know that active transport is important in many cellular systems, but there wasn't any way to capture it from FRAP data," said Ciocanel. "We've developed a modeling technique for FRAP data that includes active transport and can quantify details about how those dynamics work."

In a paper published in the Biophysical Journal, Ciocanel and her colleagues demonstrated the technique by describing new details about how egg cells redistribute genetic material before they begin dividing to form an embryo. 

Read more of Kevin Stacey's article on FRAP and molecular motion.