To see the world in a dividing cell

The central goal of our research is to discern fundamental principles of cell shape control and then to apply this knowledge to a variety of disease states.  Importantly, numerous diseases, including most cancers, lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and degenerative motor neuron disease, derive a significant portion of their etiology from defects in cell mechanics.  Yet, cell mechanics has really not been explored as a source of novel therapeutic targets.  Because cell division showcases the cell's mechanics at work and defects in cell division yield highly visible, easily scorable phenotypes (namely, multi-nucleation), we are using cytokinesis to identify small molecules that can tweak cell mechanics (Surcel et al. PNAS 2015).  We have reached the stage where our first small molecules have transitioned to animal studies of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).