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The Nano-Bio World: Lessons from In-Silico Experiments

Speaker: Alfredo Alexander-Katz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Series: CBE Departmental Seminars
Location: Elgin Room (E-Quad A224)
Date/Time: Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

NanoBio interactions lie at the core of biological function and their understanding promises to bring major advances in different areas such as healthcare and the environment. It is also strongly believed that such an understanding will allow the design of new synthetic platforms able to reproduce or interface with biological systems in a seamless way. In this talk I will present our work on the interaction of nanoparticles with biological membranes. Emphasis will be placed on the important discoveries that we have come across from performing multiscale simulations of such nanomaterials. In particular, I will present our work on understanding how nano particles interact with lipid bilayers, and how a recently discovered class of nano particles is able to translocate across bilayers without disrupting the membrane. Such nanoparticles essentially behave as “nano chamaleons” altering on-the-fly their surface chemistry to mimic that of the membrane and fuse with it. The origins of such behavior, as well as the fusion pathway by which such nanoparticles enter cells will be presented. Of particular interest along this fusion process is the discovery of a new pathway to translocate charge across the membrane in a timescale of seconds, not hours. Furthermore, we have also discovered that these nanoparticles can mimic several different functions performed by membrane proteins such as fusion proteins and signaling proteins, opening new possibilities in delivering drugs, as well as serving as “artificial membrane proteins” themselves. To finalize I will give a perspective on exciting new avenues of research in this area.