Research in the Department of Cell Biology is concerned with cells as well as how cells function in the context of the various tissues of the body. Our goal is to discover molecular and physiological mechanisms that underlie the treatment and prevention of human disease.
The department faculty participate in the first year medical and dental student curriculum, and the Foundations of Biomedical Science course for graduate students. Several faculty are also contributors to medical student textbooks.
The core of the department consists of former members of the Department of Physiology, which was chaired by Richard D. Berlin for over 30 years. In recent years, he oversaw the change to Cell Biology, the addition of members from the former Departments of Pharmacology and Anatomy, and the formation of the Center for Vascular Biology (Linda Shapiro, Director) and the Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling (Leslie Loew, Director). The Department of Cell Biology is also the academic home for basic science faculty members in the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center (Bruce Liang, Director) and the Center for Quantitative Medicine (Reinhard Laubenbacher, Director). The department organizes the annual Richard D. Berlin lecture.
Mayu Inaba joined the Cell Biology Department in April 2017, as an assistant professor. Her research concerns signaling between adult stem cells and the specialized microenvironments, called niches, that maintain stem cells in an undifferentiated and self-renewing state. In a recent paper (Nature, 2015; 523: 329-332), Inaba and colleagues demonstrated that microtubule-based nanotubes, which extend from stem cells into the cells of the niche, contribute to the short-range nature of this signaling. This image shows a 3D reconstruction of a Drosophila testicular niche, illustrating how microtubule nanotubes (green) penetrate into neighboring niche cells (red).