Ewa Paluch

2019 United Kingdom Award Winner — Faculty

Ewa Paluch

Current Position:
Chair of Anatomy (University of Cambridge); Professor of Cell Biophysics (UCL)

Institution:
University of Cambridge and University College London

Discipline:
Molecular & Cellular Biology

Recognized for: Novel discoveries at the forefront of cell biology, including establishing the physiological roles of cellular protrusions called "blebs", and elucidating key biophysical mechanisms of cell division and migration.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Cell Biology, Cell Biophysics, Morphogenesis, Cytoskeleton, Super-resolution Microscopy

Biography:

BSc, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France
DEA (MSc), Paris Diderot University, France
PhD, Institut Curie and Paris Diderot University, France (Advisors: Dr. Cécile Sykes and Dr. Michel Bornens)
Group Leader, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Germany, and International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Poland

Prof. Ewa Paluch studies how cells move and change shape. Animal cells are not the static, round blobs we may remember from biology class, but rather cell shape is highly dynamic, regulated by a complex network of proteins under the cell surface--called the cellular cortex--and governed by mechanical forces such as surface tension. Having the correct shape, and being able to move, divide, or change shape, is crucial for cellular function. Cell shape dysregulation is part of many diseases, for example enhanced deformability and migration are a signature of metastatic cancer. Combining techniques from cell biology, quantitative imaging, and physics, Prof. Paluch and her team have made breakthrough discoveries in cell shape regulation, and have pioneered the use of biophysical tools and methods. For example, Prof. Paluch has contributed to elucidating the biomechanics of the formation of cellular structures called blebs. Once thought to exist only in sick or dying cells, she established that these protrusions on the cell surface are common in healthy cells; that they form because of outward pressure from the cytoplasm when cells contract; and that blebs have important functions in cell migration and division. More recently, her lab has started investigating how cell shape can influence cell fate decisions during development and in stem cells. Through Prof. Paluch's discoveries, we can develop a picture of cell morphology from molecules to mechanical forces to cell shape, and use these insights to understand the roles of cell shape and movement in development and disease, leading the field towards a more complete understanding of cellular behavior.

"The shape of any object is the result of mechanical forces, therefore understanding cell shape fundamentally lies at the crossroad of physics and biology. I am a physicist by undergrad, a PhD in biophysics, and my lab has been based at cell and developmental biology institutes. This allowed us to develop highly interdisciplinary approaches that led us to uncover some of the fundamental biophysical principles controlling cell shape changes during division, migration and more recently stem cell fate transitions. I am grateful to all the past and present members of my lab for being part of this exciting journey towards understanding how the cell deals with physics."

Key Publications:

  1. P. Chugh, A.G. Clark, M.B. Smith, D.A.D. Cassani, K. Dierkes, A. Ragab, P.P. Roux, G. Charras, G. Salbreux, E.K. Paluch. Actin cortex architecture regulates cell surface tension. Nature Cell Biology, 2017.
  2. M. Bergert, A. Erzberger, R.A. Desai, I.M. Aspalter, A.C. Oates, G.Charras, G. Salbreux, E.K. Paluch. Force transmission during adhesion-independent migration. Nature Cell Biology, 2015.
  3. J. Sedzinski, M. Biro, A. Oswald, J.-Y. Tinevez, G. Salbreux, E.K. Paluch. Polar actomyosin contractility destabilizes the position of the cytokinetic furrow. Nature, 2011.
  4. J.-Y. Tinevez, U. Schulze, G. Salbreux, J. Roensch, J.-F. Joanny, E.K. Paluch. Role of cortical tension in bleb growth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009.

Other Honors:

2018Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
2018Elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)
2017Hooke Medal, British Society for Cell Biology
2017Chair, Mechanobiology Subgroup, Biophysical Society
2014Philip Leverhulme Prize in Biological Sciences

 

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