ECE professor Pingshan Wang has received a three-year, $725,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for his project, "Label-free RF Imaging of Cell Membrane Heterogeneity in Liquid." The project, which will be supported by the NIH Public Health Service grant, focuses on developing ultra-sensitive, high resolution radio frequency (RF) scanners, and on studying the relationship between plasma membranes and their RF properties.
The heterogenous nature of plasma membrane structure plays an essential and active role in various cellular processes and disease origination and development. A well-known example is lipid raft structures, which are involved in sorting lipids, cholesterol and proteins, mediating signal transduction and membrane fusion, admitting, assembling and budding viruses in cells. Nevertheless, the molecular organizations and dynamics of rafts in living cells are poorly understood. A main challenge is the lack of techniques for the study of living cell membrane heterogeneity. Commonly used techniques are prone to inducing artifacts in the cellular structure, or lack the required sensitivity, specificity and resolution. Thus, artifact-free techniques need to be developed and living cell membrane organizations need to be further examined.
Dr. Wang's project focuses on the development of high spatial and temporal resolution RF scanners and new mathematical models to describe the RF properties of molecular organizations of cell lipid-membranes. The project is expected to have important positive impacts in the field of cell membrane studies, since it strives to fill both a gap in available instrumentation, which holds back the investigations of plasma membrane organizations of living-cells, and a gap in knowledge of cell membrane structures and functions. Through this project, Dr. Wang is expected to acquire strong research experience and knowledge background in biology and medical science, which complement his current strong background/expertise in engineering and physics.