Michael Murrell has been awarded a prestigious Young Investigator Grant from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP).
The highly competitive award supports novel collaborations among teams of scientists working in different countries. Murrell, an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Physics and faculty member at the Yale Systems Biology Institute, leads the project with collaborators Shiladitya Banerjee, Institute for the Physics of Living Systems, University College London, UK, and Alba Diz-Munoz, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany.
The three-year funding supports the team to work on a project titled “Molecular control of cortical homeostasis and cell polarization”.
Eight Young Investigator Grants and 23 Program Grants were selected from a total of 770 applications.
Team members are expected to broaden the character of their research compared to their ongoing research programs and interact with expertise that is very different from their own to create novel approaches to problems in fundamental biology.
Murrell’s research at Yale seeks to understand how cells generate mechanical forces as they move, reproduce or change their shape. To do so, his lab studies the protein-based internal mechanical machinery of the cell - the cytoskeleton - by re-engineering non-living artificial or “biomimetic” cells from scratch to reproduce and model complex behavior.
The HFSP project will investigate the ability of the cytoskeleton to spontaneously change its mechanical properties through the consumption of chemical energy. Probing these changes will help determine whether or not a cell “polarizes”, as it does during essential processes like cell migration, which has applications to the spread of diseases such as cancer.
“I’m delighted and honored to receive this valuable award from the Human Frontier Science Program Award,” said Murrell. “Working in tandem with our international collaborators will enable us to leverage our respective disciplines to answer fundamental questions about cell behavior.”