Role of the cell surface in health and disease

To understand the building block of life is to understand life itself. If we determine what is happening at the cellular level, it will have applications for all diseases.

 

To understand the cell is to understand life

Life is built with cells. Within the human body, there are 30 trillion cells and 200 different cell types. How does a healthy cell function? How do cells become specialised? What goes wrong with a cell in disease?

The Parton Group main focus is the cell surface or plasma membrane, the interface between the cell and the outside world. It stops unwanted things getting into the cell while allowing nutrients and signals to penetrate.

The plasma membrane is not a simple sheet but is specialised into different regions or domains each with a distinct structure, composition, and function. Our work aims to understand these domains – how they form, how they work, and what happens in disease. Our current focus is on two types of domain – caveolae – crater-like indentations that can respond to stresses by sending a signal into the cell. And transverse tubules – these amazing tubules are a striking feature of our muscle cells and allow an action potential to trigger muscle contraction.

Our work on plasma membrane domains has led into other areas. We have developed a novel drug delivery vehicle and we are studying the use of these vesicles in various applications.

Nanopartilce-based drug delivery

Group leader

Prof Rob Parton

Professor Rob Parton

Group Leader, Role of the cell surface in health and disease

Head, Cell and Developemental Biology Division, IMB

  +61 7 3346 2032 
  r.parton@imb.uq.edu.au
  UQ Researcher Profile

Our approach

We use a range of cutting edge techniques including gene editing technologies, mice, fish, cell lines, microscopy, biochemistry and electron microscopy (including serial blockface and focussed ion beam scanning electron microscopy, and cryoelectron microscopy of cells and molecular compleses) to understand the structure and function of the plasma membrane in diverse cell types, both in model cell culture systems and in vivo.

 

Aims to achieve

“We are examining how the cell structure works, and how it relates to different disease conditions. To tackle problems, we have to understand them first,” said Professor Rob Parton.

The Parton Group are developing new techniques using electron microscopy and virtual reality to construct interactive models of human cells.

“Using this technique we can develop a picture of the membranes of the cell in 3D and then using virtual reality, go into the cell to look around. It is a beautiful world at the cellular level.

“To understand the building block of life is to understand life itself. If we determine what is happening at the cellular level, it will have applications for all diseases.”

The Parton Group progress their discoveries from model systems right through to the animal.

Research areas

Understanding how the plasmamembrane operates is vital to understanding many disease states and conditions.
 


Ageing

  • Cancer (breast, prostate, and others)
  • Muscle diseases including muscular dystrophy.
  • Lipodystrophy

Our team

  Group Leader

  • Professor Robert Parton

    Division Head & Group Leader, Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine Division
    Professorial Research Fellow - GL
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience

  Researchers

  • Mr Charles Ferguson

    Scientific Manager
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Tom Hall

    Senior Research Officer
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Dominic Hunter

    Senior Research Assistant
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Ye-Wheen Lim

    Higher degree by research (PhD) student & Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Harriet Lo

    Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Mr Nick Martel

    Senior Research Assistant
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Kerrie-Ann McMahon

    Senior Research Officer
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Susan Nixon

    Laboratory Manager
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Mr James Rae

    Senior Research Assistant
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Bernhard Steiner

    Visiting Scholar
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Yeping Wu

    Higher degree by research (PhD) student & Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience

  Students

  Support staff

Research excellence

$1.3 billion+ commercial investment attracted to IMB research
1454 international collaborators
 
385 original publications in 2020
 
$28M in research funding last calendar year
 
20%+ of patent families at UQ are derived from IMB research
100% of donations go to the cause
 

Help us shape the future
 

 Donate        Learn with us

Stories

Pages

Connect with us

           ​