What we do:
We are a discovery driven laboratory working at the intersection of Engineering, Biology, and Medicine. Our research combines engineering principles with diverse approaches (genome engineering, systems biology, cell and molecular biology, Imaging, microfluidics, etc.) and model systems (e.g. melanocytes, human stem cells, microbes, and animals) to investigate fundamental transcriptional, cellular, and physiological processes with the aim to engineer novel interventions for human health and environmental applications.
We are investigating gene regulatory principles using melanin producing pigment cells (aka melanocytes) as a quantitative trait model system. Melanin is produced inside specialized organelles called melanosomes found within melanocytes. Given humans have same number of melanocytes, only variable rate of melanin production leads to human pigmentation diversity. We are investigating how genetic differences within gene regulatory landscape drive a divergent gene expression program(s) leading to variable human melanogenesis.
Our research efforts are to aimed at developing enabling technologies/processes that can help us decipher the gene regulatory program(s) of melanocytes and model melanosomes (melanin producing organelles) dynamic behavior in-situ.
Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer in humans which originates in melanocytes. We are investigating how the perturbation in human melanogenesis gene expression program(s) modify melanoma initiation propensity in humans. This research is geared towards developing therapeutic approaches to counter melanoma initiation and progression.
Technologies for Melanoma Diagnostics and High-Throughput Drug Discovery
Melanoma is an aggressive cancer and is usually detected after it has metastasized to distant organs. Early detection of melanoma could improve the clinical outcome and patient survival. We are developing microfluidics-based assays to detect melanoma specific biomarkers in patients. We are also leveraging engineered cell lines to test potential melanoma-modifying agents.
Melanin producing microbes (fungi and bacteria) have tremendous impact on human health and environment. Using synthetic and systems biology approaches, we are aiming to engineer the ‘melanin microbes’ for sustainable environmental and human health applications.