Engineering tools for optical monitoring and control of cellular activity
Bio: Andre Berndt is an assistant professor at UW in the Department of Bioengineering and develops molecular biosensors for applications in neuroscience. He received his Ph.D. in biophysics from the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, after elucidating the molecular mechanism of the light-gated cation channel Channelrhodopsin-2. Based on this essential work, he extended the optogenetic toolbox by engineering various tools for controlling neuronal circuits by light. He continued his work as a postdoc at Stanford University where he identified the structural determinants of channelrhodopsin ion selectivity, leading to the design of a completely new channelrhodopsins. By combining biophysics and bioengineering with neuroscience, he aims to develop the most efficient tools for interrogating neuronal circuits with increased specificity.
Abstract: Light activated channels and pumps, are well established, powerful tools for revealing the function of neuronal circuits in the field of optogenetics. Proteins such as channelrhodopsin and halorhodopsin had a groundbreaking impact on neuroscience research because they allow for precise control of specific neuronal populations even in freely moving animals. As a biophysicist, I understand that the application range of these tools is critically connected to their inherent biophysical properties. In my talk, I will describe how molecular engineering created proteins with novel features which allowed us to broaden the application range of optogenetics. For instance, I will describe the development of the chloride conducting channelrhodopsin iC++ by converting the selectivity of its ion conducting pore which ultimately allows for efficient, light-gated inhibition of neurons. The foundation for these protein designs is a fundamental understanding of their molecular mechanisms. The same principles can be applied to create a variety of new tools which will help to further elucidate the functional architecture of the brain.
Molecular Engineering and Sciences Seminar Series
This weekly seminar brings together students, faculty and invited guests from various disciplines across campus to explore current trends in molecular engineering and nanotechnology. It is a forum for active interdisciplinary discussions. These talks are open to the public and attract a diverse audience of students and faculty.