The primary focus of the Chan lab is to understand the role of mitochondrial dynamics in normal cellular function and human disease. Due to their well-known role in oxidative phosphorylation, mitochondria are commonly thought of as the "powerhouses" of the cell. However, they are also involved in many other cellular functions, including fatty acid oxidation, iron-sulfur metabolism, programmed cell death, calcium handling, and innate immunity. They are remarkably dynamic organelles that undergo continual cycles of fusion and fission, events that result in mixing of mitochondrial contents. The equilibrium of these two opposing processes determines the overall morphology of mitochondria and has important consequences for the quality of the mitochondrial population.
The Chan lab's research falls into several broad areas:
(1) What are the cellular and physiological functions of mitochondrial fusion and fission?
(2) What is the molecular mechanism of mitochondrial membrane fusion and fission?
(3) What role do mitochondrial dynamics play in human diseases?
To address these issues, they use a wide range of approaches, including genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, and structural biology.