|Back to Contents|
Robert Palazzo, professor and chair of biology, has solved a twofold problem with the help of the common surf clam. His work focuses on collecting and isolating the tiny centrosome a little-known structure of a cell that plays a key role in cell replication. Palazzos research into the mechanisms of these minute structures could lead to new therapeutic cancer drugs.
In the mid-1980s, Palazzo found a source of centrosomes in the unfertilized eggs of the surf clam. He now has developed methods to isolate centrosomes on a large scale to study how they martial chromosomes to divide within a cell. Abnormal division of chromosomes is one theory of how cancer cells arise.
Each summer, Palazzo collects billions of clam eggs on the shallow ocean floor in Woods Hole, Mass., where he conducts centrosome research nearby at the Marine Biological Laboratory.
Scientists know the basic role of the centrosome is to organize the contents of a cell before and after cell replication begins. But because of its tiny size, one-tenth that of the average nucleus, researchers have had little luck in isolating enough of them to analyze the molecular mechanisms that control their function.
A healthy cell duplicates its original centrosome to establish two new cell centers, and to guide the movement of the cells chromosomes. When the centrosomes are in place, each set of chromosome pairs is split and the sister chromosomes move toward their respective centrosome to complete mitosis (cell division).
If a cell generates more than two centrosomes, however, the chromosomes could be disproportionately distributed to the new cells. This would result in abnormal numbers of chromosomes and genetic instability.
In fact, many tumor cells do have more than two centrosomes, Palazzo says. The next step, therefore, is to find a way to prevent abnormal centrosome replication or prevent centrosome function in those tumor cells while minimizing damage to normally functioning cells in the same tissue.
|Rensselaer Magazine: March 2003|
|President's View||Your Mail||From the Archives||Hawk Talk||Class Notes Features|
|Front Page||At Rensselaer||Milestones|
|In Memoriam||Making a Difference||Staying Connected|
|Rensselaer Home Page | RPInfo | AlumServ Home Page|
Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute.
|© 2003 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. All rights reserved worldwide.|
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), 110 8th St., Troy, NY 12180. (518) 276-6000
Web site design by the Rensselaer Office of Communications.
Contact Jane Van Ryan, Assistant Vice President, Office of Communications.
Questions? Comments? Please contact us.