Current research in my lab includes: i) studying the modulation of calcium-dependent glutamate release from astrocytes in health and disease; ii) visualization of vesicular/receptor trafficking; iii) examination of the nature and energetics of interactions between exocytotic proteins using single molecule detection approaches; iv) development of scaffolds and dispersible materials, most notably modified carbon nanotubes, which can be used in repair after brain injury and v) bio-mimetic micro-robotics. We have been interfacing neuroscience with nanoscience/nanotechnology, synthetic biology and biomedical engineering.
Seven specific projects are available for the Beckman Scholars. i) Dynamic visualization of mitochondrial traffic of wild type astrocytes and astrocytes from Alzheimer and Huntington disease model animals using fluorescence microscopy. ii) Dynamic visualization of mitochondrial traffic, using fluorescence microscopy, of astrocytes treated with various forms of water soluble single-walled carbon nanotubes (ws-SWCNTs). iii) Visualizing the effect that ws-SWCNTs have on the morphology of microglia and oligodendrocytes. iv) Study growth of microglia and oligodendrocytes on CNT scaffold with various conductivities. v) Study effects that ws-SWCNT and CNT scaffold have on age-depended distribution of vesicles (using fluorescent protein timer) in astrocytes. v) Generation of muscle using synthetic biology for micro-robotics with emphasis on optogenetics and transcription factors. vi) Dynamic visualization of effects that mutated forms of glial fibrillary proteins, which cause Alexander disease, have of vesicle (including those that carry cannabinoid receptors) and mitochondrial traffic in astrocytes. This type of projects have been successfully implemented in our laboratory in undergraduate research and resulted in honors theses as well as first or contributing authorship in peer-reviewed journal articles.