Gregory Alushin received his B.A. magna cum laude in biochemistry from Columbia University in 2006, and his Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. He then came to the NHLBI as a postdoctoral fellow, working with Clare Waterman in the Cell Biology and Physiology Center. In 2013, Dr. Alushin received an Early Independence Award from the NIH, enabling him to establish his own interdisciplinary research program in the NHLBI Division of Intramural Research. In addition to this award, Dr. Alushin has received several other honors for his early career research, including the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Norton B. Gilula Award from the American Society for Cell Biology, both in 2012.
Living cells utilize macromolecular machines to generate forces critical for the establishment and maintenance of internal organization and for their ability to probe and respond to their surroundings. While mechanical forces are particularly prominent in certain tissues such as skeletal muscle or blood vessels, they are essential for universal processes such as cell division, cell differentiation, and morphogenesis. Networks of protein polymers known as the cytoskeleton play a key role in the mechanics of cellular processes at the molecular level. During his graduate work, Dr. Alushin used cryo-electron microscopy to address fundamental questions about the structural basis of the dynamics of the microtubule cytoskeleton and their role in chromosome-spindle interactions during mitosis.
Dr. Alushin’s current research focuses on how cells use the cytoskeleton to sense and respond to the mechanical properties of their respective tissue microenvironments. He hopes to develop a comprehensive picture by integrating biophysics, structural biology, and cell biology approaches. Dr. Alushin’s lab employs cutting-edge electron and light microscopy techniques to image the three-dimensional arrangements formed by the components of the cytoskeletal network in vitro and in vivo with molecular resolution. Using computational image analysis, the lab aims to dissect the physical principles underlying the self-organization of cytoskeletal networks and their intimate relationship with cellular mechanics.
A central project is investigating the hypothesis that cells “read” molecular deformations of the actin cytoskeleton that occur under load in order to coordinate responses to mechanical cues. These studies will provide both insight into fundamental questions regarding cell dynamics and lead to potential improvements in human health, as mechanosensation influences cellular decision-making in the development of stem cells and the spread of cancer.