Institute for the Physics of Living Systems


IPLS/BioP Seminar: Dr. Thomas Michaels (UCL)

13 October 2021, 11:00 am–12:00 pm

Thomas Michaels

Title: Control of biomolecular aggregation

Event Information

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2nd Floor Seminar Room (2.30), LMCB
MRC Building
Gower Street

Abstract: The variety of cellular functions on which life depends relies on a multiplicity of carefully regulated interactions between macromolecules. Understanding how living cells exert precise and robust control over such biochemical reactions is a fundamental goal of molecular biology, not least because it opens up opportunities to reprogram pathological behaviour linked to disease. A particularly fascinating example of such processes is biomolecular aggregation, a general biophysical phenomenon in which simple components assemble into complex supramolecular structures. This process is key for the normal functioning of living systems, where it provides the basic machinery of life – functional protein complexes — and finds widespread applications in nanotechnology and materials science. When aggregation occurs in an uncontrolled manner, however, it underlies the pathogenesis of several increasingly prevalent disease conditions. Therefore, it is key that we understand the control principles behind complex aggregation phenomena. In recent years, the use of concepts from control theory (a mathematical discipline rooted in engineering) has provided key insights into how feedback loops robustly regulate biochemical reaction networks in a variety of processes inside cells, ranging from gene expression to cellular metabolism. Such feedback control mechanisms are analogous to those found for instance in automatic cruise control of a car are the key to making these biochemical processes robust against noise, component failure or other external perturbations. In my talk I will discuss some exciting applications control engineering ideas to study complex biomolecular aggregation processes across multiple scales. Examples will range from the design of effective treatments against pathological protein aggregation to elucidating the biological function of biomolecular condensates.

Host: Bart Hoogenboom

The seminar will be hybrid- both in the LMCB Seminar Room and online. Please contact Jas Gill-Thind (j.gill-thind@ucl.ac.uk) if you do not already have the details to join the Zoom meeting.

For best functionality please ensure when you join the call you turn off your webcam and mute your microphone, to save bandwidth. If you have a question, please use the meeting Chat panel to let the host know, then switch on your camera and microphone on to ask the question when prompted.