Traditionally, biomedical engineers have been limited to mimicking natural biological processes. However, we currently find ourselves at the apex of a Genomic Revolution that has decoded many of the fundamental principles of biological systems. Armed with this new knowledge, we now envision the engineering of a new biology to fulfill previously intractable design criteria for a myriad of solutions to challenges in medicine and science. This cellular and molecular engineering of new biological systems is the overarching theme of our research and teaching interests. Our central objective is to transform these nascent concepts into technologies that lead to tangible benefits to society. These interests are interdisciplinary by nature and include collaborations with researchers in engineering, molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, computer science, genetics, genomics, neurology/neurobiology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, pharmacology, and surgery.
More specifically, our scientific interests lie in developing innovative methods in molecular and genetic engineering for applications in regenerative medicine, treating genetic disease, and enhancing our understanding of fundamental biological processes. Our work in these areas capitalizes on the products of the Genomic Revolution and modern advances in the fields of genetic reprogramming, gene delivery, protein engineering, stem cell transplantation, and synthetic biology to create biologic approaches with the potential to improve human health. These studies also facilitate a better understanding of complex processes, including organogenesis, cell lineage determination, and gene regulation, that we hope will ultimately lead to improved design of drugs and biotherapeutics. These efforts are largely focused on coordinating changes in cellular processes at the genetic level in order to achieve more precise, robust, and efficient control of cell behavior. This includes manipulating gene expression networks to control cell differentiation or lineage commitment, creating targeted changes to genome sequences to treat genetic disease, and controlling gene delivery and regulation to enhance efficacy and safety for gene therapy. Our unique approach stems from expertise in enabling technologies such as directed molecular evolution, optogenetics, and the rational design of synthetic programmable DNA-binding proteins. Specific biomedical applications of this work include the treatment of genetic diseases such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and the regeneration of diseased or damaged tissues including muscle, cartilage, bone, and skin. These intellectual interests are complemented by our commitment to education and outreach at the high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral level.
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