utlogo

Research

membrane_patch
Cellular membranes are the essential substrates of biomolecular assembly.  Using membrane reconstitution, quantitative imaging, and live cell studies, our laboratory is exploring the assembly of functional protein complexes on membrane surfaces and simultaneously developing new materials and strategies that manipulate membrane processes for the delivery of therapy.

Projects

 

How are cellular membranes organized and shaped at the molecular scale?

crowded_membrane


Discovering the organizational principles of crowded cellular membranes.

Using purified and cell-derived membranes, we are learning how biological function emerges from the ability of lipids and proteins to self-organize in crowded molecular environments.

 

endocytosis


Probing the molecular mechanics of coated vesicle assembly.

We are reverse engineering endocytosis using purified component parts (proteins and lipids) in order to discover the physical mechanisms behind curved vesicle assembly and learn how to therapeutically manipulate the process.

How can therapeutic materials communicate instructions to cells?

membrane_vesicles

Designing therapeutic materials that trigger cellular uptake and control intercellular trafficking – We are designing novel membrane-based systems and observing their interactions with cellular membranes at the molecular scale in order to develop a new class of therapeutic machines that actively enter cells and deliver cargos.
 

Designing membrane systems that communicate biochemical instructions to cells – By incorporating functional trans-membrane proteins in therapeutic materials, we are developing new strategies for drug delivery that depend on the exchange of biochemical information between synthetic systems and cells.


 

Tools

 

Quantitative fluorescence imaging of protein assembly on membrane surfaces.

fluorescent_membrane_patch

Using our home-built confocal microscope, we employ time-correlated single photon counting to probe membrane organization at the molecular scale.

vesicles
Using a range of methods from electroformation of giant unilamellar vesicles to microfluidic vesicle encapsulation and cellular blebbing, we design membrane systems that mimic cellular surfaces.

Building cell-like systems from synthetic and cell-derived membranes.