Laboratory for Biomembrane Engineering

Bridging synthetic biology and biomaterials to generate new tools to understand, sense, and regulate cellular behavior

Sensing

How do cells sense chemical and physical changes in their environment? We are reconstituting membrane proteins inside synthetic membranes to better understand this process and design new biosensing materials.

Membrane Dynamics

The bilayer membrane has unique material properties unlike any other typical material (ex. hydrogels, colloids, metals, etc.): it can stretch, bend, phase segregate, grow, fuse, and divide. We are investigating how to harness these behaviors to design new types of complex material systems.

Membrane Protein Folding

The proper folding of a membrane protein into the membrane is critical for its function. We are studying how properties of membranes influence membrane protein folding as proteins are synthesized.

Signal Transduction

Cells move information across their membranes to respond to environmental signals or to communicate with other cells, all without allowing molecules to physically move across the membrane . We are recapitulating this process using different types of membrane proteins.

Transport

Cells move cargo across their membranes to signal to other cells or secrete useful products. We are uncovering how to use transport proteins in synthetic vesicles to move physical cargo that is produced or held inside vesicles out to the external environment.

Cell-Material Interactions

We are designing artificial cells that can communicate with and regulate cellular behaviors.

art by Maggie Boyd

art by Maggie Boyd

Inspired by Cells

Biological cells perform a wide variety of complex tasks including sensing, communication, manufacturing, and movement. The cell membrane, which provides a physical boundary that separates the inside of the cell from the outside of the cell, plays a critical role in these processes. Inspired by the capabilities of this organelle, we reconstruct bilayer membranes in the laboratory and use them as (1) a material platform to build cell-like structures as well as (2) a model system to recreate and better understand cellular behaviors that involve the membrane.

The structures we build are based on bilayer membranes

which provide a platform to assemble amphiphiles, peptides, proteins, and polymers, and mimic the structure of biological membranes.

Phospholipid vesicles, or liposomes, have traditionally been used to model cell membranes, but are limited in mechanical strength and synthetic flexibility. In order to create synthetic membranes with a diverse range of physical and chemical properties, it has become important to expand the composition of model membranes to other amphiphilic surfactants.
RESEARCHER TEAM OPENINGS

Join Our Effort to Build and Study Cells

The Kamat Lab is looking for creative and inquisitive graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates that are interested in building artificial cells and biosensors and/or uncovering how cell membranes work.

Happenings

our latest News

Northwestern’s Center for Synthetic Biology (CSB) is one of the global hubs for innovation in its field.

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    This article features some of the innovative research that the center is doing.

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Neha, Gabe, and Arthur appeared on the cover of the latest Northwestern Research Snapshot from

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