Cells in multi-cellular organisms such as humans are arranged in highly complex three-dimensional structures. The cells attach to their environment through cell adhesion proteins, which create a type of living scaffolding for the body. Integrins are an important type of cell adhesion molecule that attaches cells to tissues to provide structure within the body (bone, tendon, etc). Cell adhesion has varied and critical roles during animal and human development. Defective cell adhesion can play a role in a variety of disorders such as muscle degeneration, thrombosis, blood clotting disorders and cancer.
Dr. Guy Tanentzapf is exploring the mechanisms that regulate the activity of integrins, as well as the role of integrins in preventing muscle degeneration. He is studying cell adhesions with the powerful genetic and molecular tools available for the fruit fly, commonly used in genetic modeling. Understanding how cell adhesions are formed and maintained is key to understanding both normal development and disease processes where integrin function is disrupted.