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The Genetics of Cell Motility
Cell motility is a critical and fascinating feature of normal animal development. In addition, cell migration contributes to homeostasis by facilitating wound healing and immune responses. However cell motility has a dark side. Tumor cells can acquire the ability to invade surrounding tissues and migrate long distances to colonize lymph nodes, bones and other distant organs. This process, metastasis, is a major cause of morbidity and mortality amongst cancer patients.
Many complex problems are best unraveled when approached using a relatively simple model system. Therefore we study epithelial cell motility in the Drosophila ovary, where cells called border cells detach from their epithelium of origin, extend and retract actin-rich protrusions, and migrate ~150 micrometers to their target. We use a genetic approach to screen for and identify genes that are required for this process. We have identified numerous genes and several major signaling pathways that endow the cells with their invasive properties, specify the developmental timing of the event and instruct them where to go.
Recently, we have developed techniques for imaging the border cells in living tissue and this is providing us with a whole new way to analyze the details of migration-defective mutants. If you would like to know more about the research ongoing in the lab, please click here.
Check out this recent paper from our lab
Check out this new paper from our lab
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