The Section on Cell Biophysics, led by Ralph Nossal, studies of cell behavior that can be linked to underlying physical mechanisms, for which the Section develops and applies methodologies based on mathematical and physical principles. The research also utilizes biochemical and cell biological techniques. Among current projects are (i) constructing a physical model to explain the stochastic nature of coated-vesicle biogenesis during receptor-mediated endocytosis, (ii) determining the mechanical properties of clathrin cages and using that knowledge to gain insight into membrane transformations that occur during vesicle trafficking, (iii) exploring how substrate mechanical properties affect the movements of locomoting eukaryotic cells, and (iv) understanding how certain small molecules interact with microtubules and thereby act as anti-mitotic agents. The Section also develops new experimental methods to characterize these and related phenomena, focusing increasingly on developing an integrated understanding of cellular activities that are coordinated in space and time.
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