Michael Vershinin Lab

One of our systems of interest is microtubule-based motility. The need to understand how things move on the tiniest scale is enormous. Not only is transporting things around crucial for normal cell functioning but problems with transport rear their ugly head in many diseases.

The basis for moving things around in cells are molecular motors. Indeed, given a "road" to move on and a cargo to move, a single tiny nano-machine will happily blindly move its load ahead. Blindly is the key word here. These nano-machines, small and sophisticated though they are, do not inherently "know" what to move and where and when to move it. Intracellular logistics functions efficiently due to a multitude of biochemical and biophysical regulatory factors. It is this emergent complexity that our group aims to rationalize and quantify (not necessarily in that order :).

Optical trapping setup in the lab

The key biophysical measurement tools we have been using so far include holography, optical tweezers, fluorescence measurements and related microscopy and laser optics techniques.

One of our recent advances is our development of a way to arrange nanoscale filaments into nano-structures in 3D with nanoscale precision. This is a key advance because we can now build increasingly complex cytoskeletal structures in a controlled environment. Such a capability goes beyond just allowing us to study nano-transport in 3D.

We can also, for example, probe how cytoskeletal structures respond to mechanical stress, i.e. we have a whole new approach to cellular biomechanics. It is also a way for us to engineer entirely novel 3D nano-structures with potentially unique engineering uses.

An illustration of a stable 3D structure built in our lab out of microtubule filaments and beads.