Regulation of cell movement in development and disease
The formation of our tissues during embryonic development involves a complex set of cell movements as each cell manoeuvres itself into the correct location. Similar movements are also required in adults when tissues are repaired following an injury. We are investigating how these cell movements occur, how they are controlled to ensure that each cell movement occurs correctly and how defects in cell movement lead to disease. Cell movement is driven by the continual remodelling of a structural network within the cell called the cytoskeleton. We are interested in understanding how remodelling of the cytoskeleton is controlled to achieve precise cell movements. As it is extremely difficult to study cell movement in complex organisms such as humans, we are using cell culture and a simple organism, the fruit fly Drosophila for our research. Drosophila embryos are transparent meaning we can image cell movement with high resolution in live embryos. In addition, we can use genetic techniques to study the function of individual genes in cell movement and how genetic mutations can lead to changes cell movement and and developmental diseases. Our research will lead to a better understanding cell movement which will help in the development of treatments for genetic diseases and injury. It will also improve our understanding of cancer metastasis, which occurs when tumour cells inappropriately acquire the ability to move.