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UCL Division of Biosciences

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Dr Anna Franz

Dr Anna Franz

Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Research Fellow

Cell & Developmental Biology

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st May 2019

Research summary

In my lab, we investigate the functions of motile adipocytes in wound healing and cancer using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model system. 

Adipocytes, also commonly known as fat cells, were once believed to merely serve to store our energy and keep our bodies warm. It is now clear that adipocytes also play several other important functions and are crucial for maintaining homeostasis. However, little is known about the roles of adipocytes in wound healing. Fruit flies have adipocyte-like cells called fat body cells that are best known for their many systemic roles regulating metabolism, growth and immunity. We recently demonstrated that fat body cells also play several local roles during wound healing to enable repair and fight infection. Surprisingly, we found that fat body cells are not immotile, as previously presumed, but are highly motile cells. These large cells migrate to wounds using an unusual adhesion-independent mode of motility. While several other cell types, including lymphocytes and some cancer cells have been described to use adhesion-independent migration, the mechanisms that power this mode of migration are still unclear.

Using sophisticated genetic, molecular and live imaging techniques, we study the mode of cell migration used by fat body cells and investigate the functions of fat body cells in wound healing. In addition, we are interested in understanding the roles that fat body cells play in regulating cancer growth. Wound healing and cancer share many common features and adipocytes are known to play important roles in both processes. Even though there is a clear link between obesity and an increased risk of cancer, the mechanisms by which adipocytes influence cancer progression remain largely elusive. Studies in flies have shown that fat body cells counter tumour growth through a largely unknown mechanism. We use live imaging and genetic experiments to study this regulation of cancer growth by fat body cells. 

Education

University of Cambridge
PhD, Developmental Biology | 2012
University of Cambridge
M.Phil, Developmental Biology | 2007
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Dipl., Biology | 2006
Publications