Nancy Allbritton

Nancy Allbritton, MD, PhD, is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member and Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill. Allbritton’s Lab is a multidisciplinary effort that brings to bear principles and techniques from chemistry, physics, engineering, and materials science to develop new assays and technologies for biomedical applications.

UNC-Chapel Hill
Cancer Cell Biology

Area of interest

The objective of the Allbritton research program is to quantitatively measure the activity of proteins in cellular signaling networks in order to understand the relationships of these intracellular pathways in regulating cellular physiology in health and disease. These networks are composed of interacting proteins and small molecules that work together in a concerted manner to regulate the cell in response to its environment. Despite the importance of these key signaling molecules in controlling the behavior of cells, most of these proteins and metabolites can not be quantified in single cells. In addition, since cells behave asynchronously and often exhibit nonlinear behavior in response to a stimulus, measurements on pooled populations of cells often do not reflect the intricate signaling occurring within individual cells. Thus, there is a need throughout biology for new technologies to identify and understand the molecular circuits within single cells. A goal of research in the Allbritton lab is to develop new methods that will broaden the range of measurements possible at the single-cell level and then to utilize these methods to address fundamental biologic questions. The laboratory has pursued this task by bringing to bear diverse techniques from chemistry, physics, biology and engineering to develop new analytical tools for identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying signal transduction within individual cells. The labs research is best characterized as a multidisciplinary program for the development and application of new analytical methods with two main focus areas: 1) techniques to monitor cellular signaling, and 2) microfabricated cellular analysis systems.

Microanalytical Methods to Assess Cell Signaling. A major focus of research in the Allbritton Group is the quantitative measurement of the enzymatic activity of signal transduction proteins in cells. A micro-analytical technology and biochemical assay that enables the activity of one or more enzymes to be measured simultaneously in a single cell has been pioneered by the laboratory.

Microfluidic Devices for Cell-Based Analyses. Another focus of the group addresses the burdgeoning field of nano/micro-fabrication for bioanalytical applications. Microfabrication is leading a revolution in biomedicine with miniaturized devices being developed for research, pharmaceutical screening, and point-of-care diagnostics.

Micropallet Arrays to Sort Adherent Cells. An additional facet of her work involves the use of state-of-the-art engineering techniques and chemical surface modifications to produce a platform technology for the analysis, selection, and collection of individual cells and colonies.

Awards and Honors

1982 – 1985 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Health Sciences and Technology Fellowship
1990 – 1993 NIH Individual Postdoctoral Award
1995 Searle Scholar Award
1995 Beckman Young Investigator Award
2003 UCI Midcareer Research Award
2004 College of Medicine Excellence in Teaching Award
2006 Featured Scientist in Orange County Registrar (3/17/2006), Science Section.
2009 Mary K. and Velmer A. Fassel Award, Dept. of Chemistry, Iowa State University
2010 Fellow, American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering

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