Sabine Petry, associate professor of molecular biology, together with Joshua Shaevitz, professor of physics and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics are among five groups selected to receive the Dean for Research Innovation Funds for New Ideas in the Natural Sciences. The fund supports the exploration of early stage, high-potential ideas with the goal of eventually submitting a competitive external proposal. The winning proposals were selected based on their quality, originality and potential for impact through a process of anonymous peer review.
Petry and Shaevitz, are developing a novel microscopy approach to better understand cell division, a process fundamental to life in which one cell splits into two. They plan to analyze in unprecedented detail the structure of a network of protein filaments, called the mitotic spindle, that plays a key role in cell division yet remains poorly understood due to its large size and high density of protein filaments. The researchers will combine AI-based computer vision with new, advanced expansion microscopy techniques to provide the first molecular image of the mitotic spindle. This deepened understanding of the spindle’s structure will provide a basis for understanding the origin of diseases that lie at the heart of cell division, such as cancer and infertility, and will open the door for dozens of other laboratories at Princeton to study sub-cellular structures using this new approach.