Our laboratory is interested in constructing novel nanomaterials from biological molecules such as proteins, peptides, and DNA. In particular, we aim to merge the complex programmability of DNA nanotechnology with the structural and functional diversity of proteins through the synthesis of well-defined protein-DNA hybrids. This research program is by its nature highly interdisciplinary, and lies at the interface of chemistry, nanotechnology, biology, engineering, and medicine. Our work is centered around three main themes:
1) The controlled modification of proteins and peptides at multiple locations with DNA. We are developing methods for the selective conjugation and purification of protein-DNA hybrids in order to control the orientation of proteins on DNA nanostructure scaffolds. This effort merges organic bioconjugation chemistry with protein engineering and peptide synthesis.
2) Construction of complex nanomaterials from proteins and DNA. Although DNA nanotechnology excels at creating complex structures, these materials are limited to the physical and chemical properties of nucleic acids. Biology, on the other hand, uses proteins for a broad range of structural and functional goals. Using protein/peptide-DNA conjugates, we are constructing hybrid nanomaterials for application in targeted drug delivery, protein structural characterization, as well as nanoscale machines and devices.
3) Hierarchical engineering of micro-tissues with single-cell resolution. Natural tissues possess organization across multiple length scales, from nanometers to centimeters and beyond. The ability to control the arrangement of cells along with their complex extracellular matrix will allow for the synthesis of tissues mimicking the complexity of biological structures like the brain. We are developing protein-DNA hybrid biomaterials that will allow us to span these length scales and construct three-dimensional cell aggregates to answer medically and biologically relevant questions in fields like neuroscience, stem cell biology, and embryonic development.