Craig Aspinwall

Biological signaling processes are comprised of diverse molecular species which present a number of chemical and physical challenges with respect to chemical measurement. The most challenging species to measure, and thus the ones whose roles are least defined in signaling pathways are those compounds that lack inherent chemical moieties that are amenable to high sensitivity spectroscopic or electrochemical detection. The majority of our research efforts are focused on the development of biomimetic and biofunctionalized sensor strategies that allow detection of key signaling components, while also proving useful for other key bioanalyses including drug discovery and clinical diagnostics.

Biomimetic platforms provide key advantages for chemical analysis in complex systems. Nearly all molecular species interact, at some level, with soluble and/or membrane proteins. While the scientific endeavor has spent the last 200+ years developing approaches to quantify chemical species, eons of natural selection has provided highly efficient biological recognition events, particularly for compounds that interact with transmembrane proteins (TMP). Our primary research focuses on integrating these naturally occurring interactions, or closely related synthetic mimics, into platforms that are conducive for measurement of biomolecular species with unprecedented selectivity, and sufficient sensitivity and temporal and spatial resolution to elucidate the molecular composition of key biological functions. Specifically, we are interested in integrating TMPs and other proteins into measurement platforms. TMPs regulate a multitude of biological functions by transducing information from the extracellular domain to the intracellular domain upon ligand binding. Furthermore, the broad diversity and number of TMPs coupled with the chemical diversity of corresponding ligands present a key opportunity for chemical measurements if a number of key challenges can be overcome.