Rebecca Health is a professor of Cell and Developmental Biology. The scientific goal of the Heald Lab is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of cell division and size control. Their unique and interdisciplinary approaches take advantage of in vitro systems, particularly cytoplasmic extracts prepared from eggs of the frog Xenopus laevis that reconstitute mitotic chromosome condensation and spindle assembly and function in vitro. To study mechanisms of spindle and organelle size control, they have utilized a smaller, related frog, Xenopus tropicalis, to investigate interspecies scaling, and extracts prepared from fertilized eggs at different stages of embryogenesis to study developmental scaling. Their research has provided novel insight into cell division and morphogenesis, processes essential for viability and development, and defective in human diseases such as cancer.
Current research is focused on two major areas. The first is to elucidate novel mitotic mechanisms that promote accurate chromosome segregation, characterize the key players that define spindle architecture, and advance reconstitution experiments toward a systems-level understanding of the spindle. The second is to investigate size control mechanisms at the subcellular, cellular and organism levels, developing tools for chromosome labeling and mutagenesis in Xenopus, and leveraging phylogenetic relationships among different frog species. Their research is highly collaborative and aims to provide new insight into the underlying principles of spindle assembly and biological size control, as well as the molecular basis of variation that contributes to genomic instability, aging, and evolution. Aside from research, her professional goal is to provide a productive and nurturing environment for my group members and to help guide them to the next phase of their careers.
In the News
The size of a cell's nucleus varies by species, by cell type, and with disease: many cancer cells develop larger nuclei as they become more malignant. Working with the African clawed frog, Professor Rebecca Heald and post-doc Daniel Levy have discovered two proteins that control the size of the nucleus.