We all started from a single cell. During our development into adulthood, we have undergone literally trillion rounds of cell divisions. To maintain the integrity of our genetic material through these divisions, cells deploy a complex yet delicate mechanism to separate the duplicated DNA in the form of chromosomes. When this process goes awry, many developmental defects and diseases arise. These include Down Syndrome and cancer. Therefore, understanding the fundamental process of cell division will enable us to know more about disease occurrence and to develop new treatment strategies. One crucial element to achieve faithful segregation of chromosomes is the assembly and disassembly of a "cytoskeletal" network that connects them in a timely manner.
The main purpose of this network is to provide a "super-highway" within a cell for transporting essential materials such as the chromosomes and the infrastructure for supporting cell shape changes. The core component of this network is composed of two major protein polymers called microtubules and actin. They form "cable- or string-like" filaments to provide a structural framework for many biomechanical interactions and biochemical activities. However, the molecular underpinnings of how polymer assembly dynamics are controlled during cell division remain poorly understood. Using a multi-disciplinary approach that combines chemical biology, protein biochemistry, cell biology and cutting edge microscopy techniques, our research program pursues three directions: 1) to understand how key protein factors regulate cytoskeletal dynamics during cell division, 2) to find chemical molecules that can control their activities as research tools and potential chemotherapeutic agents, and 3) to develop methodologies in finding new regulatory factors of cytoskeletal dynamics.
Our ultimate goal is to gain a more thorough view of how cytoskeletal dynamics are controlled during different stages of cell division so that we can develop better strategies to treat diseases such as cancer.