Reactivity-Guided Designs of New Molecular Probes and Cell Surfaces
Our ability to explore aberrant metabolic pathways and pathogenesis remains limited, as the majority of current investigative methods interfere with native cellular processes. Although there has been significant progress in designing chemical probes, target-specific approaches that use a cell’s own metabolism are necessary to study cell physiology. Based on this notion, we are establishing an exciting new platform of small molecules and nucleic acids to elucidate disease initiation and progression in live cells. This platform is highly configurable, allowing cytocompatible detection of a wide range of biological markers, including enzymes or reactive metabolites, both inorganic and organic.
In conjunction to our work with new bioimaging and diagnostic tools, we are interested in encapsulating cells with synthetic layers that have characteristics beyond the natural traits of cell membranes. The realization of these cell-in-shell hybrids would push the boundaries of biotechnology, yet current techniques for cell surface modification often induce cell death or cause the cells to lose critical functions pertaining to regulation, signaling, and motility. Our approach utilizes the inherent reactivity of designer catechols in unique ways to encapsulate cells without disrupting their homeostasis. We aim to harness this bioorthogonal chemistry to increase cellular tolerance to environmental conditions or control cell behavior.
In this talk, I will summarize the related advances in cellular imaging and cell surface modifications and describe how far our lab has come to advance these fields.