David SherwoodDepartment of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA F1000 Faculty Member (since 01 February 2007)
Associate Professor, Department of Biology
The main goal of my laboratory is to understand the mechanisms that control cell invasion through basement membrane, the thin, dense, barrier-like extracellular matrix that surrounds most tissues. Cell invasive behavior is crucial for many developmental processes and remains the least understood aspect of cancer progression. An understanding of the mechanisms that control cell invasion has been limited by the lack of in vivo models where the dynamic interactions of the invading cell and basement membrane can be experimentally dissected. During my post-doctoral studies in Professor Paul Sternbergs laboratory, I pioneered the development of anchor cell invasion into the vulval epithelium as the first in vivo model to study cell invasion through basement membrane at single cell resolution. Connection of the uterus and vulva in C. elegans is initiated by the uterine anchor cell, which breaches the basement membranes separating both tissues to form a connection with the central vulval cells. Our group combines genetic, functional genomic, cell biological and live-cell imaging approaches to understand the mechanisms that underlie anchor cell invasion. Our studies indicate that many of these mechanisms are conserved with vertebrate cell invasion, and we have begun to extend our work into highly metastatic cancer cell lines. With over 100 new pro-invasive genes identified with our genetic and functional genomic screening approaches and the development of novel imaging approaches that are providing new insights into cell invasion, our studies are elucidating the fundamental mechanisms that endow invasive cells with their unique properties both in development and human disease.
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