Guy Salvesen, Ph.D.
Professor and Program Director, Apoptosis and
Cell Death Research
The body has complex mechanisms to ensure there are the right number of cells—neither too many nor too few. In the credit and debit columns, cell division increases cell numbers, while cell death by apoptosis decreases them. Focusing on the mechanisms behind apoptosis, Dr. Guy Salvesen’s laboratory has discovered how caspases—a family of proteins that cut other proteins into pieces—regulate apoptosis. Caspases are involved in the normal maintenance of correct cell numbers and are implicated in a number of pathologic and physiologic conditions. Caspases are essential to apoptosis, and by learning more about how these proteins function and how other proteins regulate that function, Dr. Salvesen has increased our understanding of the delicate machinery that determines whether a cell should live or die. Better understanding of apoptosis has led to a new generation of drugs in clinical trials and gives us insights into how we can attack cancer cells by igniting their own suicide mechanisms.
A molecular model of the apoptosome, the cellular engine that activates caspases.