Questioning cell geometry: an interview with Wallace Marshall

Wallace Marshall has been intrigued by the question of what regulated cell size since his childhood, when a book showing electron microscope images of cells showed their remarkably regular shape and structure, and led him to wonder how this could be. He returns to the question in his introduction to BMC Biology‘s Forum article on the topic, which forms part of BMC Biology’s series on Cell geometry – and now in an audio interview.

Will there be a universal mechanism across organisms that determines how the size of a cell is regulated? Whilst Wallace thinks that the authors of our Forum article start to answer this important question in several different organisms, there is still a lot we don’t understand. “It’s a lot like the parable of the blind man trying to figure out what an elephant looks like by touching different parts of it. It will be great to see if there is a universal feature.”

What common properties of cell geometry should people be studying? Wallace says that what he would like to see is a “focus on individual, geometric features, rather than on any particular molecule or particular structure” – and advises: “Think about the most basic components of geometry, that a kindergartner would be learning about, and see how cells think about those same problems.”

Wallace also adds that he is currently studying the green alga Chlamydomonas, the giant ciliate Stentor coeruleus (which we have used as the emblem for the Cell geometry series, right) and yeast to understand both how cell size of a unicellular organism is regulated and what happens to cells when you retune the size of their organelles. Hear all details in the podcast. We are still welcoming research articles to the series, particularly any that may be able to answer any of the questions Wallace poses.

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