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Cell and Molecular Biology

Cellular Form: The Basis of Healthy Function

Our program seeks to determine how cells and tissues integrate chemical and mechanical information to guide normal growth and homeostasis with the ultimate goal of being able to guide these processes with small molecules for therapeutic purposes.  To do this, our core research is focused on fundamental biomedical discovery, using genetic, biochemical, and cell biophysical approaches and small molecule screening with the model organism Dictyostelium discoideum.  Initially, we focused heavily on cytokinesis as a model cell morphogenic event.  Cytokinesis naturally enca

Advancing Biosystems Imaging: Imaging the hierarchical organization of biological systems

In recent years, advances in imaging probes, microscopy techniques and bioinformatics image analysis have markedly expanded the imaging toolbox available to developmental biologists. Apart from conventional phenotypic studies, embryonic development is increasingly investigated in vivo with improved accuracy in time and space and more detailed quantitative analyses down to the single-cell level (reviewed in). To get more insight into the elaborate cell dynamics (i.e. cell division, motility and morphological changes) and protein dynamics (i.e.

Final Cut: Cortical Dynamics during Cytokinesis

During cytokinesis, a cortical contractile ring forms around the cell equator and constricts to partition the contents of the mother cell into the two daughter cells. Cytokinesis represents a paradigm for a temporally and spatially controlled cellular shape change that is achieved by regulation of the actomyosin cortex.  I will present two new studies related to the mechanism of cytokinesis conducted in the one-cell C. elegans embryo. To initiate cytokinesis, the anaphase spindle sends a stimulatory signal to the cell equator that promotes cortical contractility.

Genomics-inspired biology: From genes to organisms, and beyond

Charles Darwin was a brilliant naturalist who recognized many biological connections through his observations of the natural world. Darwin would no doubt revel in our ability to draw biological inferences from DNA sequences. Of course, we also know that biological inference and biological content are easily conflated and that genomics can only take us so far without proper authentication via empirical biology.

The Allen Institute of Cell Science – Integrated, multi-scale and spatial-temporal cell biology

The mission of the Allen Institute for Cell Science is to understand and predict cellular behaviors. Our initial project takes an integrative approach, developing high replicates of dynamic, visual data on cell organization and activities using endogenous fluorescently tagged human induced pluripotent stem cells. We are quantifying the relative locations and dynamics of the major cellular structures and activities as the stem cells go through the cell cycle and differentiate into cardiomyocytes andrespond to environmental perturbations and drugs.

Heraclitus and the cytoskeleton: the role of force feedback in molecular self-assembly

The mechanical properties of most eukaryotic cells is determined by the actin cytoskeleton. A major challenge to understanding the physical properties of actin networks, however, is that they are dynamic: their assembly and disassembly are integral to their function. External forces are particularly relevant to ‘dendritic’ actin networks, generated by the nucleating and crosslinking activity of the Arp2/3 complex, a seven-subunit protein complex that builds crosslinked filament arrays by creating new filaments that branch from the sides of existing filaments.

Cachexia-like wasting in drosophila

During animal development, homeostasis, and aging, anything that grows eventually decays or undergoes consumption, which is known as atrophy or wasting. Thus, like growth, wasting is a fundamental biological process. Importantly, wasting is also part of a complex systemic disorder associated with many diseases. Cachexia, the wasting syndrome commonly observed in advanced cancer patients, affects approximately eight million people worldwide. Due to the complexity of the disease, it is challenging to dissect the molecular mechanisms of cachexia.

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