PI: Warren C. Ruder

Title: Creating Smart Biomaterials using Engineered Bacteria that Cooperatively Reprogram Mammalian Cells

Description: An ability to reprogram the function of mammalian cells is critical for exploring the scientific underpinnings of cell behavior as well as improving human health. This effort will result in the development of smart biomaterials and experimental systems made up of microparticles carrying engineered bacteria. These hybrid, living-nonliving biomaterials will be used as a tool to reprogram mammalian cell signaling. One advantage of an extendable synthetic biomaterials approach that uses engineered bacteria to regulate mammalian calcium signaling could be the abrogation of the need to directly alter mammalian cells to reprogram their behavior. Thus, the need for vectors such as viruses or the creation of transgenic animal models could be reduced. For this effort, bacteria-bound microparticles will be developed that can deliver synthetic genetic components to mammalian cells and reprogram calcium signaling. Calcium signaling is a ubiquitous system that effects cells ranging from nerves to the cells that line the gut, and controls both slow and fast cellular processes. Next, these particles will be made into “smart” biomaterials as their living component – the bacteria – will be engineered with an ability to collaborate and collectively determine when to transmit genetic components to mammalian cells. Finally, mathematical modeling and computational simulation will be used to explore calcium signaling dynamics in mammalian cells in order to determine when alterations will cause the most significant changes in cell signaling dynamics. The smart biomaterials will then be used to reprogram this signaling. In addition, this effort will be integrated with the development of multiple teaching modules for a bioengineering summer camp, and the final curriculum will be widely disseminated to the broader scientific and educational community.

Source: DMR, National Science Foundation

Term: 8/1/2017 – 7/31/2020

Amount:  $338,414/year