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    ABSTRACT: Understanding mechanosensitivity (i.e., how cells sense the stiffness of their environment) is very important, yet there is a fundamental difficulty in understanding its mechanism: to measure an elastic modulus one requires two points of application of force-a measuring and a reference point. The cell in contact with substrate has only one (adhesion) point to work with, and thus a new method of measurement needs to be invented. The aim of this theoretical work is to develop a self-consistent physical model for mechanosensitivity, a process by which a cell detects the mechanical stiffness of its environment (e.g., a substrate it is attached to via adhesion points) and generates an appropriate chemical signaling to remodel itself in response to this environment. The model uses the molecular mechanosensing complex of latent TGF-β attached to the adhesion point as the biomarker. We show that the underlying Brownian motion in the substrate is the reference element in the measuring process. The model produces a closed expression for the rate of release of active TGF-β, which depends on the substrate stiffness and the pulling force coming from the cell in a subtle and nontrivial way. It is consistent with basic experimental data showing an increase in signal for stiffer substrates and higher pulling forces. In addition, we find that for each cell there is a range of stiffness where a homeostatic configuration of the cell can be achieved, outside of which the cell either relaxes its cytoskeletal forces and detaches from the very weak substrate, or generates an increasingly strong pulling force through stress fibers with a positive feedback loop on very stiff substrates. In this way, the theory offers the underlying mechanism for the myofibroblast conversion in wound healing and smooth muscle cell dysfunction in cardiac disease.
    Biophysical Journal 01/2014; 106(1):124-33.
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    ABSTRACT: Nanopores have emerged over the past two decades to become an important technique in single molecule experimental physics and biomolecule sensing. Recently DNA nanotechnology, in particular DNA origami, has been used for the formation of nanopores in insulating materials. DNA origami is a very attractive technique for the formation of nanopores since it enables the construction of 3D shapes with precise control over geometry and surface functionality. DNA origami has been applied to nanopore research by forming hybrid architectures with solid state nanopores and by direct insertion into lipid bilayers. This review discusses recent experimental work in this area and provides an outlook for future avenues and challenges.
    FEBS letters. 01/2014;
  • 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Recent biophysical approaches have provided key insights into the enthalpic and entropic forces that compact the nucleoid in the cell. Our biophysical approach combines two complementary, non-invasive and label-free techniques: a precisely timed steerable optical trap and a high throughput microcapillary Coulter counter. We demonstrate the ability of the latter technique to probe the physical properties and size of many purified nucleoids, at the individual nucleoid level. The DNA-binding protein H-NS is central to the organization of the bacterial genome. Our results show that nucleoids purified from the Δhns strain in the stationary phase expand approximately five fold more than the form observed in WT bacteria. This compaction is consistent with the role played by H-NS in regulating the nucleoid structure and the significant organizational changes that occur as the cell adapts to the stationary phase. We also study the permeability to the flow of ions and find that in the experiment nucleoids behave as solid colloids.
    Integrative Biology 12/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Singlet exciton fission, the spin-conserving process that produces two triplet excited states from one photoexcited singlet state, is a means to circumvent the Shockley-Queisser limit in single-junction solar cells. Although the process through which singlet fission occurs is not well characterized, some local order is thought to be necessary for intermolecular coupling. Here, we report a triplet yield of 200% and triplet formation rates approaching the diffusion limit in solutions of bis(triisopropylsilylethynyl (TIPS)) pentacene. We observe a transient bound excimer intermediate, formed by the collision of one photoexcited and one ground-state TIPS-pentacene molecule. The intermediate breaks up when the two triplets separate to each TIPS-pentacene molecule. This efficient system is a model for future singlet-fission materials and for disordered device components that produce cascades of excited states from sunlight.
    Nature Chemistry 12/2013; 5(12):1019-1024.
  • Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 11/2013; 14(12):754.
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    ABSTRACT: A general semiconductor-independent two-dimensional character of the carrier distribution in top-gate polymer field-effect transistors is revealed by analysing temperature-dependent transfer characteristics and the sub-bandgap absorption tails of the polymer semiconductors. A correlation between the extracted width of the density of states and the Urbach energy is presented, corroborating the 2D accumulation layer and demonstrating an intricate connection between optical measurements concerning disorder and charge transport in transistors.
    Advanced Materials 10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Crystal-phase engineering has emerged as a novel method of bandgap engineering, made feasible by the high surface-to-volume ratio of nanowires. There remains intense debate about the exact characteristics of the band structure of the novel crystal phases, such as wurtzite GaAs, obtained by this approach. We attack this problem via a low-temperature angle-dependent magneto-photoluminescence study of wurtzite/zinc-blende quantum disks in single GaAs nanowires. The exciton diamagnetic coefficient is proportional to the electron-hole correlation length, enabling a determination of the spatial extent of the exciton wave function in the plane and along the confinement axis of the crystal-phase quantum disks. Depending on the disk nature, the diamagnetic coefficient measured in Faraday geometry ranges between 25 and 75 μeV/T(2). For a given disk, the diamagnetic coefficient remains constant upon rotation of the magnetic field. Along with our envelope function calculation accounting for excitonic effects, we demonstrate that the electron effective mass in wurtzite GaAs quantum disks is heavy, mostly isotropic and results from mixing of the two lower-energy conduction bands with Γ7 and Γ8 symmetries. Finally, we discuss the implications of the results of the angle dependent magneto-luminescence for the likely symmetry of the exciton states. This work provides important insight in the band structure of wurtzite GaAs for future nanowire-based polytypic bandgap engineering.
    Nano Letters 10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We use transient absorption spectroscopy to demonstrate that the dynamics of singlet exciton fission in tetracene are independent of temperature (10-270 K). Low-intensity, broad-band measurements allow the identification of spectral features while minimizing bimolecular recombination. Hence, by directly observing both species, we find that the time constant for the conversion of singlets to triplet pairs is ∼90 ps. However, in contrast to pentacene, where fission is effectively unidirectional, we confirm that the emissive singlet in tetracene is readily regenerated from spin-correlated "geminate" triplets following fission, leading to equilibrium dynamics. Although free triplets are efficiently generated at room temperature, the interplay of superradiance and frustrated triplet diffusion contributes to a nearly 20-fold increase in the steady-state fluorescence as the sample is cooled. Together, these results require that singlets and triplet pairs in tetracene are effectively degenerate in energy, and begin to reconcile the temperature dependence of many macroscopic observables with a fission process which does not require thermal activation.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 10/2013;
  • Science 10/2013; 342(6155):203-204.
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