Department of Physics, University of Toronto
60 St. George St.
1 (905) 828-3833
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Understanding life at molecular level is one of the greatest challenges of our time. The major benefits to society will be the ideas for developing new drugs and therapies against disease, the design of bio-mimetic nanotechnology and the development of new medical imaging methods.
The Gradinaru biophysics research laboratory at University of Toronto Mississauga employs advanced laser and detection technology to capture structural and functional dynamics of individual (bio)molecules. In recent years, single-molecule approaches have gained considerable ground in life sciences through widespread applications to the study of protein folding, enzymes, chemical receptors and biosensors. This popularity is due to the unique capability to "see" details beyond the intrinsic disorder and complexity of biological systems and to better connect with theoretical models. Our group designed and built two fluorescence microscopes capable of simultaneously recording multiple properties of weak optical signals emitted by individual fluorescent probes. The data is recorded at the photon level and it is analyzed using custom software code written by students.
Various spectroscopy and imaging capabilities are available in the lab, such as multiparameter single-molecule fluorescence, burst, FRET, FRAP, FCS, PCH and multichannel WF/TIRF. Current research projects are focused on the study of rapidly fluctuating structures of intrinsically disordered proteins, the inhibitory action of peptidic drugs against the transcription protein Stat3 and the conformational dynamics of DNA on quantum-dot biosensors. We are also investigate the structure of lipid-coated polymeric beads for drug delivery and the crowding-induced anomalous diffusion of proteins in the nucleus of live cells. Our work requires a combination of physics, molecular biology, biochemistry, analytical chemistry and engineering skills, it is highly interdisciplinary and it is conducted in close collaboration with biologists and (bio)chemists.