Nanointerfaces to Read and Write Biological Networks

Date(s) - 01/13/2020
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Communicore, C1-11

Alex Xu, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Systems Biology Nanointerfaces to Read and Write Biological Networks

Biology is animated by networks of biomolecules including proteins, transcripts, and metabolites, and modern techniques to control or measure these networks, i.e. CRISPR editing or genome sequencing, have transformed our understanding of health and disease in tissues. Tissues are not monolithic, however, and the heterogeneity of single cells in tissue is the defining trait of many phenomena such as cancer drug resistance. Bulk methods are oblivious to single cell details, so the development of new tools to control biology at the level of single cells is critical to addressing cell heterogeneity in biology, especially in complex diseases like cancer. Here I present techniques that operate at the subcellular- and nano-scale to perform operations – measurements and manipulations – within single cells. First, I will describe how a field of vertical nanowires can be used to provide long term, actuatable interfaces to directly access and manipulate the cell interior. These nanostraws are used to control a spectrum of signaling molecules, including DNA, RNA, ions, and glycans. Second, I will describe technologies to couple transcriptome sequencing to functional measurements of the same single cells. Functional measurements include protein analyses and surface expression of immune receptors. I will close by describing the synergy between subcellular measurement and manipulation for the future of single cell analysis.

Alex Xu is an F32 Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. James Heath at the Institute of Systems Biology. He received B.S. degrees in Materials Science and Mathematics at MIT in 2010, and completed his Ph.D. in 2015 with Nick Melosh at Stanford. His research interests span nanotechnology, cancer biology, and the development of new methods for single cell analysis.