To See the World in a Dividing Cell

If you are interested in supporting our research or our Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE) program for disadvantaged Baltimore youth, please contact Doug ( or Geminesse Johnson, Associate Director of Development, Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences (

Lab announcements:

Doug Robinson was selected as the School of Medicine's 34th recipient of the Johns Hopkins University Professors' Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Biomedical Sciences.  

We welcome our new BCMB doctoral student Priyanka Kothari to the lab.  Priyanka, welcome to the lab family!

Congratulations to Tianzhi Luo, new Assistant Professor at the University of Science and Technology of China.  Way to go, Tianzhi!

Vasudha Srivastava defended her doctoral thesis on Feb. 23, 2015.  Congratulations, Dr. Srivastava!  In June, Vasudha will move to UCSF for her postdoctoral fellowship with Zev Gartner.

Krithika Mohan defended her doctoral thesis Feb. 5, 2015.  Congratulations, Dr. Mohan!  Krithika will head to NC State for her postdoctoral fellowship with Jason Haugh.

We welcome our newest (and youngest) lab member.  Brayden Englert was born Jan. 26, 2015.  Congratulations Corrine, Judd, and Brayden!

See our newest press releases:

Cellular 'Cruise Control' Systems Let Cells Sense and Adapt to Changing Demands

Cells are the ultimate smart material. They can sense the demands being placed on them during critical life processes and then respond by strengthening, remodeling or self-repairing, for instance. To do this, cells use “mechanosensory” systems similar to the cruise control that lets a car’s engine adjust its power output when going up or down hills. Researchers are uncovering new details on cells’ molecular cruise control systems. By learning more about the inner workings of these systems, scientists hope ultimately to devise ways to tinker with them for therapeutic purposes.  Please check out the rest of the story on National Insitute of General Medical Science's BioBeat.

Proteins Pull Together As Cells Divide: Group dynamics, not star proteins, drive mechanics of crucial cell process

Like a surgeon separating conjoined twins, cells have to be careful to get everything just right when they divide in two. Otherwise, the resulting daughter cells could be hobbled, particularly if they end up with too many or two few chromosomes. Successful cell division hangs on the formation of a dip called a cleavage furrow, a process that has remained mysterious. Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that no single molecular architect directs the cleavage furrow’s formation; rather, it is a robust structure made of a suite of team players. This work appeared online in Current Biology on February 19, 2015.  Please click here for the rest of the story.

Under Pressure: Mechanical stress is a key driver of cell-cell fusion, study finds

Just as human relationships are a two-way street, fusion between cells requires two active partners: one to send protrusions into its neighbor, and one to hold its ground and help complete the process.  Researchers have now found that one way the receiving cell plays its role is by having a key structural protein come running in response to pressure on the cell membrane, rather than waiting for chemical signals to tell it that it’s needed. The study, which helps open the curtain on a process relevant to muscle formation and regeneration, fertilization, and immune response, appears in the March 9 (2015) issue of the journal Developmental Cell.  Please click here for the rest of the story.

Stiffening Up Cancer Cells

A new screen uncovers compounds that alter cell mechanics. Could these compounds someday treat cancer from an unexpected angle? Find out by reading the story in Biotechniques.

New Cancer-Fighting Strategy Would Harden Cells to Prevent Metastasis

Existing cancer therapies are geared toward massacring tumor cells, but Johns Hopkins researchers propose a different strategy: subtly hardening cancer cells to prevent them from invading new areas of the body. They devised a way of screening compounds for the desired effect and have identified a compound that shows promise in fighting pancreatic cancer. Their study appeared January 20, 2015 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Please click here for the rest of the story.