The Parent lab aims to understand how cells detect and respond to external chemotactic signals and, in particular, how the spatial and temporal relay of chemotactic signals between cells impact single and group cell migration. The property of sensing and initiating directional migration in response to external cues is a fundamental property of biological systems. In metazoans, for instance, this behavior is essential for a variety of fundamental processes including embryogenesis, adult tissue homeostasis, inflammation, and immune responses.
Studies of chemotaxis involve three distinct model systems with complementary virtues: the social amoebae Dictyostelium discoideum, a relatively simple system, genetically tractable and readily amenable to biochemistry; mammalian neutrophils, which function largely like Dictyostelium and allow the study of acute and chronic inflammation in a physiologically relevant fashion, and breast cancer metastatic cell lines, which provide a unique perspective into a devastating aspect of tumor biology. A recent initiative for studying cell migration involves a model system that incorporates both neutrophils and breast cancer cells, which appreciates the guidance of tumor-immune cell cross-talks on cell motility.
Research in the Parent lab is a multidisciplinary endeavor. It combines biochemical, cell biological, immunological, and genetic approaches, and collaborations with physicists, engineers, and structural biologists. Such a plurality of model systems, along with a trans-disciplinary approach to their study, empowers the Parent group to understand signal transduction pathways in complex physiological settings, and directly translate their findings to clinically important processes such as inflammation, immune responses, tissue repair, and cancer metastasis.