Membranes in Biology & Medicine
Membranes are nature's architecture, enclosing reactive molecules, storing energy, and modulating signals. Their components, membrane proteins and lipids, orchestrate all of life's key processes. Given their importance, it is not surprising that 60 percent of drug targets are membrane proteins. Membrane constructs such as vesicles as play key roles in delivery technologies and may be exploited as critical building blocks in materials that interface with cells as tissue scaffolds or permanent devices.
Researchers in the Membranes in Biology & Medicine research theme seek to understand and engineer membrane processes, materials, and proteins, with a variety of fundamental and translational goals. Our membrane research includes developing novel systems for high throughput screening for drugs targeting membrane proteins, and novel molecules for delivering drugs across membranes. We are also developing tools to overcome the challenges of membrane protein studies and determining mechanisms of membrane proteins that are potential antibiotic targets. Small molecule tags of membrane receptors are being developed to probe how neurons form new memories or go awry in diseases. Physical investigations are probing how, through membrane tension, curvature, and phase transitions, events such as molecular binding influence interactions at distances far from the binding site itself.
Finally, membrane proteins are being engineered for applications ranging from sensing of cholesterol or toxins to single-molecule protein detection. The elucidation of membrane phenomena provides a rich information resource for empowering a wide variety of medical and pharmaceutical pursuits.