Our cell biology researchers collaborate with molecular, structural, genetic, developmental and evolutionary biologists as well as experts in genomics, genetics, virology, infectious disease, computational biology, pathology and clinical research.
Many Fred Hutch scientists seek a deeper understanding of fundamental cellular structures. Structures inside cells influence everything from individual cell movement to an organism’s metabolism. They include the cytoskeleton, a dynamic internal protein network that gives cells their shape and their ability to move — a key function that spreading cancer cells can turn to their advantage. Our researchers also study how cells package and organize their DNA, which influences gene expression, and how the shape of a nerve cell’s membrane affects communication between neurons.
Our investigators also study fundamental cellular processes that cancer cells often co-opt. For example, stem cells can either renew themselves or turn into specialized cells. Cancer cells can often acquire “stem-like” properties that allow them to grow unfettered. Our researchers study normal and cancer stem cells, as well as characteristics of early-developing organs that tumors can adopt. Other processes they study in the context of health and disease include how cells adhere to and communicate with one another and how they build proteins.
Many of our scientists study the cellular, molecular and genetic changes that trigger cancer and its progression. These studies may reveal unique susceptibilities in cancer cells that could be targeted by new therapies.
A change in cellular metabolism is a hallmark of cancer, and our scientists are working to understand how this occurs and how it fuels cancer growth. Our investigators have also shed light on how changes in the cell cycle — the cycle in which cells grow and divide — push normal cells toward cancer.