Using genetics, live imaging and computational approaches to illuminate the biomechanics of fat cell migration to wounds in flies

Anna Franz (primary)
Cell and Developmental Biology
Brian Stramer (secondary)
Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics


Adipocytes play many important functions beyond serving as energy stores. We recently discovered, that fat body cells, Drosophila adipocytes, previously thought to be immobile, are actually motile cells that migrate to wounds to facilitate healing. They migrate using an unusual adhesion-independent mode of motility. This migration mode is also used by other cells including cancer cells but remains poorly understood. This project aims to use fat body cells to study adhesion-independent cell migration in vivo. The student will use genetic manipulations combined with high resolution live imaging and computational approaches to understand the biophysics of fat body cell migration.


1 Franz et al. Fat Body Cells Are Motile and Actively Migrate to Wounds to Drive Repair and Prevent Infection. Dev Cell (2018).

2 New York Times article “Inside Wounded Flies, Fat Cells Race to the Rescue” by Douglas Quenqua (2018)

3 Paluch et al. Focal Adhesion-Independent Cell Migration. Annual review of cell and developmental biology (2016).

4 Pankova et al. The molecular mechanisms of transition between mesenchymal and amoeboid invasiveness in tumor cells. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 67:63–71 (2010).

5 Davis et al. Inter-cellular forces orchestrate contact inhibition of locomotion. Cell (2015)

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Cell BiologyDevelopment
Techniques & Approaches
BioinformaticsGeneticsImage ProcessingMathematics / StatisticsMicroscopy / Electrophysiology