The Molecular Biophysics and Bioengineering (MBB) research group integrates a range of cross-disciplinary expertise that focuses on the integration of biology with biophysics and bioengineering. Specifically the MBB group is actively developing improved strategies to study and control cellular functions and biomolecules, to develop optimized molecules, processes and procedures that will lead to enhanced therapeutics, more effective diagnostic devices and molecular markers. The MBB group also incorporates a number of broader areas including chemistry and physics to complement and enhance the bioengineering and biophysics fields, particularly within the biomedical science area.
Biophysical characterization of cellular and molecular mechanisms
Biophysical approaches based on fluorescence, circular dichroism, calorimetry and fluorescence microscopy are used to characterize cellular and molecular mechanisms. Oxidative protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum of neuronal cells and its implication on neurodegenerative disorders are being actively investigated. Cell pathways affecting prion infectivity and neuronal death are investigated using cutting edge fluorescence microscopy techniques such as fluorescence resonance energy transfer and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy. Fluorescence based methodologies are also used within this research group to unveil the influence of cholesterol in model membranes, mimicking the sarcoplasmic reticulum membranes to ascertain the effect of fluidity, polarity, and organization on membrane enzymes activity. Of special interest is the calcium pump ATP-ase, given its fundamental importance toward the understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying pathologies (such as atherosclerosis) and fostering novel therapeutic approaches.
Functional protein nanoparticles for nano-medicine and tissue engineering
A nanoparticle platform was set up by the MBB that is suitable to be manipulated and engineered allowing the selective targeting to specific cell types. The MBB will use this system to incorporate and deliver protein molecules in a range of clinically important diseases. This system will be explored and further developed for nano-medicine applications in addition to tissue engineering.
Thermodynamic Signature of Biomolecular Interactions
The main objective is the continued development and application of the newly developed QCMHCC instrument which incorporates a flow calorimeter coupled with a biosensor, designed for the study of biomolecular interactions. The biosensor confers, to the calorimeter, the recognition properties of immobilized biological components and its rapid mode of operation. Although designed as a tool for fundamental research on biomedicine, within the MBB group and across the CBMR, it has an enormous potential for drug screening and design applications. In particular, it allows rapid screening of drugs against an immobilized pharmacological target, affording the complete thermodynamic characterization of their interaction.
Biosensors Development and Analysis
One of the main objectives of the MBB is the development of novel devices for the quantitative monitorization of biomolecular recognition and detection of cells. Direct transduction systems are developed within the MBB which are primarily based on interdigitated nanoelectrodes, bulk and surface acoustic waves, quantum dots, and amorphous silicon nano-photodiodes. Physical models are based on RF impedance analysis, transmission line models, and equivalent electrical circuits that are used to model binding kinetics. Computational fluid dynamics is used within the MBB to describe mass transfer and diffusional effects as well as to design optimized microfluidics devices.