We develop novel strategies and design protein devices with the goal to control neural circuits that are implicated in neurodegenerative diseases.
We are particularly interested in genetically-encoded optical control of endogenous ion channels such as glutamate receptors (iGluRs) and calcium channels. Since the success of such control relies on a handful of photoactive proteins found in nature (e.g. LOV2, PYP, and PHR-CIBN), which have not been fully understood nor optimized for their functions, we seek to investigate the structure-function relationship of these proteins as well as to engineer new “light-switch” proteins.
We are collaborating with the Lander lab at TSRI to solve high-resolution cryo-EM structures for the redesigned iGluRs, which will be further tested in iPSC (Induced pluripotent stem cell)-derived neural stem cells.