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Precise control of cell motility is essential for embryonic development and a wide variety of physiological and pathophysiological processes. Developmental defects, metastatic cancer and other diseases can result when regulation of cell movement is perturbed. I am interested in understanding how cell movement and changes in cell shape are controlled. Directed cell migration requires dynamic remodeling of the cytoskeleton in response to diverse arrays of diffusible and surface-bound extracellular signals. We would like to understand how cells transduce environmental signals into the mechanical forces necessary to drive directed movement.
My research program combines mouse genetics, cell biological and biochemical approaches to investigate the interplay between signal transduction pathways and the actin cytoskeleton, and to deduce the functional importance of these regulatory systems in organismal development and disease etiology. One focus of the lab involves the study of cell motility and the control of cellular protrusions. A related second focus involves studying migration of neurons and their growth cones, actin-rich structures that guide developing axons and dendrites to their targets. We utilize fluorescence and time-lapse video microscopy of living cells and high-resolution electron microscopy to analyze and quantify these processes.