Understanding the mechanisms of cell competition and its role in tissue biology

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Eugenia Piddini

    University of Bristol

Project summary

The health of an organism relies on the health of its constituent cells. To help maintain a healthy tissue composition, a process of competition between cells has developed. It selects the best cells in tissues based on their survival characteristics, or ‘fitness’. When cells of differing fitness levels come into contact, weaker cells, which would be perfectly viable on their own, become the losers and are eliminated by fitter cells through induction of cell death.

In this project we will combine work using the fruit fly as a model organism with work using mammalian cultured cells to significantly deepen our knowledge of how cells compete in tissues. We will identify and validate new molecules that control cell competition, identify key health and disease contexts where cell competition plays a role. We will also investigate how cell competition could be exploited therapeutically to replenish unhealthy tissues with healthy cells.

Cell competition will affect numerous aspects of tissue biology, possibly acting as a quality control mechanism to eliminate unfit or harmful cells as they arise. Correspondingly, if properly harnessed, cell competition could open the door to novel therapeutic strategies, for example by improving the efficiency of stem cell therapies.