Biophysical Studies of Mitotic Microtubule Dynamics and Spindle Function
Our research group uses a combination experimental and computational approach to dissect molecular mechanisms for how cells divide, and for how cell division can be controlled to prevent genetic diseases, pathogenic anti-fungal drug resistance, and cancer. Specifically, we are interested in how proteins regulate the dynamics and mechanics of critical cell division components. These components include microtubules, which align duplicated chromosomes and then pull them apart during cell division, and also the chromosomes themselves, whose own mechanics contribute to their proper segregation during mitosis. Our overarching goal is to improve human health by developing an improved mechanistic understanding for how cells divide.
The primary experimental visualization tool in the Gardner lab is single-molecule Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy. We image living cells using quantitative fluorescence microscopy, and also purify proteins such as tubulin (which is the building block of microtubules) and other microtubule-associated proteins to observe their interactions outside of the cell. We use biophysical computational modeling to better integrate and understand our experimental observations, make new experimental predictions, and to test whether our proposed cellular mechanisms are physically reasonable. We broaden all of our experimental observations with extensive quantitative image analysis, in order to squeeze as much information as possible out of every collected experimental image. Overall, we are a cellular biophysics laboratory that combines cell biology tools with biophysical methods to shed new light on the regulation of cell division.