Intellectual Property
ASCB 2008 American Society for Cell Biology
Poster: Tuesday, December 16, 2008, program 1559, board B10
1:30p-3:00p by Chris Pennell, Jeff Habig, and Tim Otter.
Please visit us -- we look forward to talking with you.

Interactive Computer Simulations for Teaching Cancer Cell Biology

Poster image (reduced size suitable for page printing)
Accompanying handout (Univ. of Minnesota side)
Accompanying handout (Crowley Davis Research side)

We have created computer models and simulations for teaching fundamental cell biology, principles of experimental design, and data analysis associated with mechanisms of carcinogenesis. Multicellular virtual tissues or clusters of cells arise by growth, division, death and differentiation of one or a few starting cells. Consistent with Hanahan and Weinberg (Cell 100:57), the models are sensitive to targeted mutations that must accumulate in a normal cell to transform it into a tumor cell with unrestrained growth. For instance, sequential mutations that render a cell insensitive to anti-growth signals, self-sufficient in growth factor, non-senescent, and resistant to apoptosis produce virtual cells that grow and divide unchecked. Students can study the effects of induced mutations on any cell's gene expression and intracellular resources, monitor growth or division potential, track cell lineages (to assay the behavior of normal or mutant cells), learn about processes that affect cell proliferation in vivo by analysis of metabolic regulatory networks that control emergent cell behaviors, or explore more specialized topics such as immunosurveillance and tumor detection. In addition, we have built computer models of in vitro development of mammary acini, B and T cell lineage commitment, viral infection and replication, and pathways of apoptosis. Genes and gene expression, molecules and their locations, metabolic networks, and cellular processes (adhesion, signaling, secretion, turnover of components, growth, division, etc.) are represented in the simulations. The modeling platform is accessible from any Internet-capable workstation via an intuitive graphical interface. Because of its versatility, compatibility with readily available computing equipment and ease of use, this approach can be integrated with a variety of teaching styles and settings in secondary and college education. Sample simulations are available at

• Nels Dokken, John F. Kennedy High School, Bloomington, MN
• Christopher Pennell, PhD, Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Minnesota, MN
• Tim Otter, Crowley Davis Research, Inc.
• Jeff Habig, Crowley Davis Research, Inc.


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