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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Cafe science makes research available to community

Published: October 24, 2014
Section: News

Every first Monday of the month, the Cafe Science program invites one Brandeis professor in the sciences to Solea, a restaurant on Moody Street, to discuss their research, for the purpose of informing the local community about current scientific advancements. Recently, on Oct. 6, Cafe Science invited Dr. Bruce Goode (BIOL) to speak about his research on the cytoskeleton, a dynamic network of polymeric proteins found inside all living cells.

Goode spoke about the cytoskeleton as critical to the viability and functioning of cells. He stated it gives them “dynamic mechanical properties, enabling cells to generate directional forces and thus reshape themselves, crawl, contract or divide.” Additionally, the cytoskeleton functions to “organize the interior of the cell, holding things in place and transporting smaller parts to specific locations,” he said.

Funded by federal grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, as well as private agencies, Goode’s research lab works with the proteins actin and tubulin, which are the basic building blocks of the microfilament and microtubule polymers that constitute the cytoskeleton. The Goode lab studies how other proteins, such as formins, adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) and kinesin, bind to the sides and ends of microfilaments and microtubules. From there, they connect them and coordinate their dynamics in cells.

Goode works with six Ph.D. students, five postdoctoral fellows and six undergraduate researchers in his lab. He says that student researchers make significant contributions to the research, performing biochemical, genetic and cell biological work on the proteins that make up the cytoskeleton. In studying these proteins, Goode’s research lab hopes to further understand how the components of the cytoskeleton work together in reshaping the architecture of cells.

Successful research of the cytoskeleton could lead to advancements in treating human diseases in the future. Alterations in microfilament and microtubule-based mechanisms are linked to human health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, neurodegeneration and developmental disorders, as well as pathogen-induced illnesses. Moreover, mutations in formins, APC and kinesin-1 in humans lead to disorders and cancers such as colorectal cancer, kidney disease and defects in limb development. Further study of these proteins could hopefully uncover mechanisms that are directly relevant to human health, and ultimately may provide strategies for treating a variety of human ailments.

Goode strongly supports the efforts of the Cafe Science program, as he believes it encourages the community to learn about current scientific research. Goode’s research is funded indirectly by taxpayer dollars, so he feels it is important for the community to have a chance to hear about what their money underwrites. Cafe Science provides the community with the opportunity to meet and connect with academic researchers, as well as further their understanding of how current research can directly affect their lives.

“I hope that Cafe Science will continue to gain in popularity and continue to inform the community about the world-class research occurring at Brandeis and its direct impact on the health and well-being of the public,” Goode said.