Nanomachinery of the Cytoskeleton

Project: Research project

Project Details


The cytoskeleton is instrumental in most aspects of cell function, which if controlled and modified, could enable early detection and viable treatment for cancer, Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, viral infections, and other devastating conditions. Nanoscale structure is key to the function of the cytoskeleton, which is composed of a set of one-dimensional objects with diameters on the order of 10 nm, including actin, intermediate filaments and microtubules. Functions such as cell division, cell motility, membrane trafficking, intracellular transport of cargo, cell-cell interactions, signal transduction and the establishment and maintenance of cell form are all associated with cytoskeletal processes. Understanding the cellular nanomachinery involved in organizing and moving cytoplasm could offer fundamental insights into cell proliferation, morphogenesis, tissue organization, wound healing, the immune response, stem celldifferentiation, development and plasticity of the nervous system and the response of an organism to infectious microbes. Engineering principles and the characteristics of these natural 'devices' will drive the development of new nanoscale tools for cytoskeletal biology. Similarly, elucidating nanoscale aspects of biological phenomena will generate fresh strategies to cure or prevent disease. These strategies will likely rely on either nanotechnology tools or synthetic, biocompatible nanostructures rather than the small molecule drugs and proteins currently in use. We propose to establish a Nanomedicine Development Center to 1. study the assembly and dynamics of cytoskeletal structures, 2. unravel function and regulation of these structures in intracellular traffic, cell division and cell motility, 3. develop and implement nanoscale strategiesand tools to overcome the challenges of cytoskeletal research, and 4. build prototype devices and nanomaterials to implementing these new insights for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. The new Center will be housed at Northwestern's interdisciplinary Institute for Bioengineering and Nanoscience in Advanced Medicine. (IBNAM)
Effective start/end date9/30/047/31/05


  • National Eye Institute (1 PN1 EY016569-01)


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