The Molecular, Cellular & Physiological Biology Area is proud of its many lab classes and the connection to biomedical research. Undergraduate and graduate students often work side-by-side and are encouraged to present their research findings at national meetings and to submit manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals.
Lisa Banner - diabetes; neuroregeneration; immunology
The nervous and immune systems consist of complex networks of cells that monitor signals and respond in a specific manner. These systems are intimately connected and communicate bidirectionally. This implies that signals are involved. Cytokines are a group of polypeptides used as signals between cells of the peripheral immune system and the central nervous system. The main question I am interested in is how do cytokines coordinate interactions between the nervous system and the immune system. One approach to address this question of coordination is to analyze the regulation of cytokines when the system is perturbed, for example, in response to stress. Stress can be achieved in a variety of ways. For my studies, adult mice are placed in a novel environment; this is a well-known model for psychological stress. Subsequently, the mice are analyzed for changes in cytokine levels. Additional lines of research include examining the pathways that link stress to the onset of pathogenesis, the roles other factors play in stimulating cytokine release in both the nervous and immune systems and the regulation of cytokines and their receptors throughout development and after injury.
Chhandak Basu - plant cell and molecular biology, biotechnology
We are interested in production of value-added compounds (including biofuel and biodiesel) in plants and algae. Our goal is to produce genetically engineered plant cells and use these cells as factories for production of biofuel and biodiesel.
Randy Cohen - feeding preferences; neurotransmitter control
My laboratory investigates the physiological and biochemical effects that neurotransmitters have on the behavior of animals. (1) We studying the deleterious effects of glutamate excitotoxicity in the central nervous system. Many human disorders are presumably caused by this phenomenon, including ischemia, Huntington's disease, and epilepsy. Using a rat model, showing an abnormal change in glutamate receptors in two brain regions, my laboratory focuses on the cause and effects of dysfunctional receptor systems. Specifically, what glutamate receptors types are involved in this widespread biomedical dysfunction? What roles do various intracellular molecules have in reducing or exacerbating this phenomenon? (2) We are also studying the role of various neuro-transmitters in the regulation of feeding behavior in insects. Specifically, what are the roles of various neurotransmitters? Do they enhance or diminish food intake? Are specific nutrients influenced by concentrations of a particular neurotransmitter?
Maria Elena de Bellard - cellular mechanism of neural crest cell migration
Neural crest cells are a stem cell population that migrates from the neural tube early in development. They migrate extensively throughout the embryo and form most of the head and peripheral nervous system, giving rise to sensory and sympathetic ganglia, heart regions, glia, head bones, teeth, muscle cells, sensory organs, melanocytes and other cell types. My laboratory is studying the cellular mechanisms responsible for coordinating the migration of these cells. This is of relevance to the mechanism by which cancer metastasizes cell fate determination in stem cells.
Yoshie Hanzawa - evolution of genetic networks in plants
Ph.D. Hokkaido University
A primary goal of my research is to understand the genetic bases of reproductive transition of plants (flowering) in response to environmental signals, and to clarify how these mechanisms have evolved. My research currently focuses on the evolution of the flowering gene network in Arabidopsis and soybean, taking an interdisciplinary approach encompassing molecular genetics, genomics, biochemistry, population genetics and systems biology, with an ultimate goal of plant improvement for higher adaptation to diverse and changing environments.
Jonathan Kelber - developmental genes and cancer
The Developmental Oncogene Laboratory seeks to characterize the molecular mechanisms and normal or oncogenic functions of genes that play important roles during development but also contribute to cancer in the adult. Our work integrates molecular/cellular biology, signaling biochemistry, animal models of normal development and disease, and microscopy to answer questions in this field.
Maria Elena Zavala - plant cell biology; hormones controlling root development
I use plants as model systems to investigate problems in development and growth. Development proceeds in an orderly sequence and is the result of genes being turned on and off in a coordinated fashion. I am interested in understanding the regulation of gene expression on a cellular and tissue level. My students study how roots growl We have focused our attention on a cluster of cells, the quiescent center, that appear to be directly involved in maintaining normal growth and function. These cells provide progenitor cells for the surrounding meristems. We would like to know if the lines of communication are altered during growth and development and how new lines are maintained. We are also working on the types of signals involved in stimulating the development of new meristems in root tissue. These studies will help us understand how normal root growth is regulated and will allow us to gain an insight into the how cells become specialized and maintain their specialization.