Medical Research

Stanford University

Manu Prakash, Zev Bryant
Stanford, CA
June 2014

Two early career investigators at Stanford University propose to determine how individual molecular components assemble into complex cellular-scale systems.  Their test case will be to design dynamic functional assemblies of engineered molecular motors derived from naturally occurring proteins that transport molecules inside the cell.  The engineered proteins will actively move cargo such as nanoparticles along tracks made of cytoskeletal proteins, and will collectively drive bulk fluid flows.  Zev Bryant will systematically engineer specifically tailored and dynamically controllable molecular-scale components, and Manu Prakash will engineer cellular-scale environments and model hydrodynamic interactions in order to program biomimetic far-from-equilibrium phenotypes.  The team will reconstitute large systems of motors and filaments in confined microfluidic geometries, and then apply state-of-the-art microscopy methods to quantify the dynamics of individual motor molecules, the motion of nanoscale cargos, and the bulk fluid flow driven by these motors.  If successful, a connection would be made between the atomic-resolution design of molecular motor properties and mesoscale behavior of cellular fluid flow dynamics.  This would be a significant milestone in creating the capacity for engineering minimal systems that organize matter and respond to environmental signals with capabilities that have so far been confined to living cells.

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