University of Minnesota
Institute of Technology
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Electrical and Computer Engineering

Profs. Oh and Wittenberg receive Exploratory Grant from MnDrive Initiative

Sang-Hyun Oh (PI, Associate Professor) and Nathan J. Wittenberg (Co-PI, Research Assistant Professor) in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering have been awarded a $40,000 Exploratory Grant as part of the MnDRIVE Initiative on Robotics, Sensors and Advanced Manufacturing (RSAM). Their proposal is entitled “Integrating Surface Plasmon Resonance with Nano-Topographic Control of Lipid Raft Formation.” 

In nature, cell membranes have a heterogeneous chemical landscape, with membrane zones called lipid rafts serving as clustering sites for important signaling molecules like proteins and certain lipids. A number of emerging drugs interact with lipid rafts, however quantification of the binding strength between drugs and their receptors in lipid rafts can be elusive. In the proposal Oh and Wittenberg describe a sensor platform with patterned heterogeneous topography, which will be exploited to control the lipid composition of biomembranes such that they mimic lipid rafts. Spatial control of the composition forces lipid raft-like membrane domains to form on the most sensitive regions of the sensor. The sensing technique employed, surface plasmon resonance (SPR), is a label-free method that measures changes in the refractive index of interfaces. SPR can be used to monitor the formation of lipid raft-like domains, as well as the binding interactions between potential drugs and the lipid rafts. This work will be carried out in collaboration with Prof. Moses Rodriguez of the Mayo Clinic, who is developing antibody-based drugs that bind lipid rafts as treatments neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).