About this Research Topic
Microenvironment is defined here as the sum total of cell-cell, cell-ECM, and cell-soluble factor interactions, in addition geometric and physical properties of the surroundings, that are experienced by a cell. Cell-microenvironment interactions make possible the levels of tissue specific behavior observed in every higher organism, where there are literally billions of cells with identical genetic information that serve as constituents of the different tissues and organs. The cells in higher organisms do not possess a sense of place or purpose by themselves. In order for each organ to operate successfully within the context of the organism, all cells must be integrated into an architectural and signaling framework such that each cell knows which commands to execute at any given time. Success at this daunting task leads to homeostasis, whereas failure results in a spectrum of dysfunctions, including cancer, other diseases, and aging.
Microenvironment properties combine to exert control over the genome in both normal and diseased cells. If the genome of differentiated cells had complete autonomy, there would be no tissue specificity, and isolated cells would continue to function in cell culture as they would in the organ. This clearly is not the case: isolated cells are known to lose most functional differentiation when separated and placed in traditional cell cultures. However, the cellular identity is not lost permanently, as we have learned that by controlling the microenvironment of the cells in culture, we can help them “remember” many of their original tissue specific traits. Metastable epigenetic states of cells also may be essential to help maintain the fidelity of phenotypes that are the result of dynamic and reciprocal interactions between cells and their microenvironments. Many questions and challenges exist for this burgeoning area of biology: What is the role of microenvironment in tissue specificity and is tissue specificity lost during disease progression? How does natural variation of genotypes alter cellular perceptions of microenvironments? How are different microenvironments, which lead to distinct tissue-specificities, established from one genome? What are the implications of microenvironment for the treatment of disease? “Omics” technologies have helped to reveal the complexities of genomes and proteomes, what types of efficient methods can be used to understand the complexity of cell-microenvironment interactions?
This Research Topic is primarily focused in the following areas of microenvironment research:
• How changes in tissue microenvironments, and dysfunctions that lead to altered perceptions of microenvironments are associated with, or causative of, disease states and aging.
• Descriptions of novel mechanisms of microenvironment-imposed cellular identity.
• Linkages between disease and aging progression and the cell-microenvironment interaction.
• Therapeutic and prevention strategies that target cell-microenvironment interactions.
• Novel methods for microenvironment biology research.
Keywords: microenvironment, extracellular matrix, disease, cancer, aging
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