• +571 339 4949
  • biofisica@uniandes.edu.co

Research areas

Membrane biophysics

We have developed a strategy of multiple experimental techniques, simulations and theoretical analysis to study the thermodynamics, mechanical and structural aspects of biomembranes. Our purpose is to explore how the physico-chemical properties of biomembranes play a role in the regulation of the physiological processes of the cell. We use fluorescence spectroscopy and FTIR as experimental tools to elucidate physical aspects of membranes such as packing level, lateral organization and permeability. We complement this with diverse microscopy techniques (fluorescence microscopy and atomic force microscopy) to study structural and mechanical properties of membranes at a microscopic and nanoscopic level. This work is carried in membrane model systems such as liposomes, supported membranes and giant unilamelar vesicles (GUVs). We translate this knowledge to a cellular level with biological models in bacteria and eukaryotic cells.

Projects...

Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics, Microscopy

Bacteria have appendices similar to hair named pili, which allow the adhesion of bacteria cells to human cells in flow conditions. In E. coli, this adhesion promotes the generation of infections such as cystitis. In previous research, it has been shown that pili can extend like elastic strings to limit the effect of big forces caused by the fluid flow in the adhesive end of pili. In our previous projects we have shown that the molecule FimH, in charge of the adhesion between pili and the surface, presents amazing adhesive properties. Besides, we have evidenced that the pili has a remarkable property: it can have a greater adhesion under tension than without tension. This counter-intuitive property is called catch bond, quite similar to the finger traps found in kid’s toys.

In a collaboration project with the Mechanical Engineering department, we want to run simulations and experiments on multiple levels to understand the way in which the fluid, pili and FimH properties affect bacterial adhesion.

Systems biology

Cells have internal circuits that control their behavior. These circuits can be studied and redesigned in a manner analogous to electrical circuits. However, since the signals are chemical they are inevitably stochastic, which causes differences of gne expression –and therefore phenotype - even within genetically identical populations. In our group, we study the origin and consequences of this variability and, in particular, how to combat microbial strategies bases on this heterogeneity and how to design robust genetic circuits. Additionally, we are working on some practical applications of the ability to design artificial genetic circuits, on the fitness value and energy cost of each bit of information a cell obtains about the environment, and on the experimental confirmation, in bacteria and humans, of theoretical results on the conditions for evolutionary stability of altruism.


Projects...

About the Laboratory

Biophysics laboratory in the Universidad de los Andes, one of the most important and innovative.
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Contact Us

 Carrera 1 # 18-10

      Building Q, Laboratory 401/505

      Universidad de Los Andes

      Bogotá, Colombia

 (+57 1) 3394949

      Ext: 3783, 2703, 2621,5179

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