• Current Projects

  • Essential genes play an important role in multiple facets of modern medicine and biology. For instance, because of the lethality from their disruptions, essential genes are often attractive targets of antibiotics. Essential genes of an organism also constitute its minimal gene set, a key concept in the emerging field of synthetic biology.

    Studying gene essentiality provides a crucial step toward understanding the complex relationship between genotype and phenotype, a fundamental question in genetics. Rapid and accurate identification of essential genes in under-studied organisms will significantly improve our understanding of how a cell works and our ability to re-engineer microorganisms that will have energy, bioremediation, pharmaceutical and biodefense applications.

    Collaborators: Daniel Hassett, Judith Rhodes, David Askew

    Funding: MI-CEID

    HDLs are blood-borne complexes of protein and lipid that play critical roles in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the major cause of mortality in the United States. Although HDL is best known for its common apolipoproteins (apo) A-I and A-II, recent proteomics studies have identified up to 50 additional proteins. The protein complement plays a critical role in defining the metabolism and potential benefit / pathology of a particular HDL particle. Our research aims to infer the HDL interactome and the synergistic functional relationships among the protein components, using computational / statistical approaches. In the long term, the resulting compositional information could provide a basis for therapeutic strategies designed to modulate certain HDL subparticles or mimic their effects, with the goal of reducing CVD.

    Collaborators: Sean Davidson

    Funding: NIH-HL104136

    Development is a precise and reproducible process that is insensitive (or robust) to both individual differences and environmental variations. How such robustness is achieved remains an intriguing but fundamental problem in developmental biology.

    We are part of an interdisciplinary team led by Jun Ma, PhD, that uses the fruit fly Drosophila as a model organism to study developmental robustness. Since the fundamental principles that guide developmental processes are conserved in all animals, the findings of this study will be directly relevant to the understanding of human development. This study will focus on a gradient protein called bicoid that instructs the embryo to develop the anterior structures, including the head and thorax. We aim to obtain experimental data to build a mathematical model that describes developmental robustness.

    Collaborators: Jun Ma

    Funding: NSF-0843424

    Other projects we are working on include analysis of biological and biomedical images to understand biological systems, and theoretical studies of biomolecular networks.

  • Unraveling the Mechanistic Basis of Gene Essentiality.

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  • Investigating the Molecular Basis for High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Heterogeneity.

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  • Probing the Developmental Robustness in Fruit Fly Drosophila.

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