Our lab's research interests span a diverse array of topics that fall under three main areas:
Programming Bacteria for Cancer
The primary focus of the laboratory is to program bacteria as diagnostic and therapeutic agents for cancer. Using tools from synthetic biology, we engineer gene circuits that allow bacteria to communicate, reproduce, and express molecules inside of tumors. We use a methodology that includes in silico mathematical and computational modeling, in vitro characterization and novel platform development, and in vivo mouse models of cancer. This approach allows us to create robust therapeutic systems with added safety and specificity. We additionally apply these principles to explore other microbiomes for human health applications.
Our lab uses engineering principles to design and construct genetic circuits in microbes. For example, we have previously engineered circuits to produce synchronized oscillations in a population of bacteria using quorum-sensing. We continue to work towards understanding the design principles of genetic circuitry to control spatiotemporal behaviors in microbes.
Quantitative and Systems Biology
The design of new genetic circuits and microbial therapeutics is often inspired by native biological systems. Our lab utilizes mathematical modeling, next-generation sequencing, and microfluidic technologies to quantitatively understand the dynamics of gene networks and microbial populations in a variety of systems at a single cell level.
Synthetic biology explained : From selective breeding to genetic modification, our understanding of biology is now merging with the principles of engineering to bring us synthetic biology.
Programming bacteria to detect cancer (and maybe treat it) : What if we could create a probiotic, edible bacteria that was "programmed" to find liver tumors? Tal Danino's insight exploits something we're just beginning to understand about bacteria: their power of quorum sensing, or doing something together once they reach critical mass. Danino, a TED Fellow, explains how quorum sensing works — and how clever bacteria working together could someday change cancer treatment.
Synchronized bacteria : By synchronising our clocks, we can coordinate our activities with people around the world. Now, scientists have engineered bacteria to synchronise their molecular timekeepers, creating the stunning fluorescent waves you see in this video.