cilia, kinesins, microtubule, ciliogenesis, cell growth, differentiation, embryos, motor proteins
Research in the Morris Lab is centered on understanding the roles of cell movement in animal development. Cells are complex and dynamic machines which can generate force along their own skeletons to move and to divide. My students and I are investigating how movement is generated within cells, and how these movements are involved in cell growth and differentiation. In particular, my lab is currently focused on the process of ciliogenesis (the formation of new cilia). Cilia are long cellular appendages that beat like paddles to move fluid over a cell or stand straight like antennae to receive signals from the outside world. Healthy cilia help embryos grow and lungs clear, eyes see, and ears hear. By revealing how cilia grow and change to perform different functions in different tissues, our research helps explain the birth defects and diseases that arise from problems with these universal and versatile organelles. One group of proteins we study in cilia are the kinesins, a superfamily of microtubule-based motor proteins that are involved in delivering materials to the ciliary tip for assembly. We study these processes in sea urchin embryos because these embryos are easy to create, easy to culture, beautiful to look at, amenable to experimentation, similar to human cells in fundamental ways, and because studying sea creatures takes us to the coast. We employ basic techniques for studying cell development including genomics, light and fluorescence microscopy, microinjection, digital imaging, and digital image analysis.
Web Page: http://icuc.wheatoncollege.edu/rmorrisspace/