Graduate School of Medical Sciences
A partnership with the Sloan Kettering Institute

Frederick Maxfield

Dr. Maxfield Headshot
We study basic aspects of cell biology and biochemistry that are related to atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.


Membrane Traffic and Cell Motility

The central focus of the laboratory is the development and use of new optical microscopy and biophysical techniques to study the properties of living cells. We use digital imaging devices, confocal microscopes, multiphoton microscopy, automated microscopy systems, and image processing computers to analyze processes occurring at specific sites within cells. Using these tools, we study the distribution and movement of various types of molecules in cells. We are interested both in the basic mechanisms regulating the movement of molecules through cells as well as the role that these processes play in specific diseases. Our studies of endocytic trafficking are aimed at developing a complete map and kinetic model for endocytic membrane traffic of receptors, ligands, and membrane lipid components. We use fluorescent tracers to follow the fates of specific molecules. For example, we have used naturally fluorescent sterols to see how cholesterol moves around in cells. We also use various biochemical and molecular biology techniques to test the role of specific proteins in directing membrane traffic in living cells. We are also studying disease-related endocytic processes such as the uptake of large lipoproteins by macrophages leading to atherosclerotic lesions and the interaction of cells with the proteins that form Alzheimer's disease plaques. Each of these uses variations of the basic endocytic processes that we have characterized.

Current Projects:

  • Macrophage lipoprotein interactions
  • Microglia digestion of amyloid.


Fred Maxfield received a PhD in Biophysical Chemistry from Cornell University and did a postdoctoral fellowship at the NCI, where he developed the use of quantitative microscopy to study cell biology, including the demonstration that multiple receptors accumulate in the same coated pits. He then joined the faculty at NYU Medicine, where his lab showed that endosomes are acidified and provided the first detailed description of the endocytic recycling pathway. He joined the faculty at Columbia and then WCM, where he was Biochemistry Chair for 26 years. His lab studies applications of cell biology to understand and treat diseases.  


  • h-index > 100
  • Member  of several editorial boards and NIH review panels
  • Several distinguished lectureships
  • Recent recognition:
  • Fletcher McDowell Award, Burke Neurological Institute, 2019
  • Fellow, American Society for Cell Biology, 2020
  • Rubenstein Lecture at the Canadian Lipid & Vascular Summit, 2023

Current Areas of Focus

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Weill Cornell Medicine Graduate School of Medical Sciences 1300 York Ave. Box 65 New York, NY 10065 Phone: (212) 746-6565 Fax: (212) 746-8906