Dr. Rollie Clem

Division of Biology
Departmental Website

“We study how cells die. Almost all cells in the body are programmed to die after a finite life span, and millions of cells die in our bodies each day by a normal process of cell suicide called apoptosis. One of the most important changes that occurs during the progression from a normal cell to a cancerous cell is that the cell gains the ability to ignore the normal signals that tell it when it is time to die. In doing so, the cancer cell also becomes more resistant to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy drugs and radiation, most of which work by inducing apoptosis. The genetic pathways that regulate apoptosis are conserved in all multicellular animals, and much of the basic information that we know about apoptosis in human cells has come from studying lower animals. We study the process of apoptosis in insects because we can learn a lot about the regulation of apoptosis from these relatively simple organisms. We also study baculoviruses, viruses that infect insects, because they can regulate apoptosis in insect cells, and some human cancers are caused by viruses.”