In our search to understand how cells coordinate their activities in various biological communities, we have studied growth factors, the genes they regulate (and how they are regulated) and the biochemical and physiological functions of some of these gene products. This pursuit lead us to develop a means, with nucleic acid aptamers, of monitoring transcription in real-time in cultured cells, which we are now developing for tracking subclinical inflammation in tissue transplants. With the better understanding of aptamers and their possible applications that we gained from these studies, we have joined forces with others to develop aptamers as sensors for clinical and other uses.
Although they are carbon-based, almost all living organisms organize minerals to their benefit, such as to make endo or exo skeletons. Most biomineralization proteins are quite small but make large crystalline structures. This requires cooperation at the molecular level. For biomineralization proteins this cooperation is usually expressed in the form of self-assembly. We are studying the protein Mms6 from Magnetotactic bacteria that can promote the formation of crystalline magnetites. Our goal is to understand the mechanism by which this protein promotes the crystallization of iron. Understanding this will help us to apply Mms6 or material mimics in engineering and medical applications, which might vary from creating a defined magnetic component of a supercomputer in situ to tracking stem cells as they move through the body.
Many people have contributed to this work and moved on to their own careers and shared their lives with others. Now and then, such as at our lab reunions, we like to get together with those who can come. We also like to collect photos of our alumni and their families.