İrep Gözen Group
Illustration: İrep Gözen
Welcome to the Gözen Research Group!
In our laboratory we use soft biomaterials, such as lipid membranes, to mimic the behavior of living cells. By modeling a complex cell with minimal forms in our experiments, we aim to gain a deeper understanding of certain biological processes, including migration (taxis), mechanical damage and repair, endoplasmic reticulum dynamics, and others.
Artificial cells and organelles
We are interested in building cell-like constructs which can migrate in response to specific environmental cues. Cell migration can be stimulated by chemicals, temperature gradients, and even electromagnetic fields. Can we build simple, motile lipidic capsules inspired by biological cells? Can these capsules be responsive towards specific compounds in the environment, such as microbial agents or pollutants? Our goal is to engineer programmable soft matter structures to achieve this.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) consists of a complex, three-dimensional mesh of lipidic tubular structures, in which the arrangement of tubes rapidly changes over time. The function of the ER relies on its peculiar morphology and dynamics. It is challenging to directly measure its properties in cells as a function of time. We want to learn more about ER structure and dynamics, the degradation of which has been linked to neurological disorders including Alzheimer's disease. To address this problem, we are building an artificial ER-like network, free of proteins, other intracellular elements or chemical energy. To what extent are these dynamics determined by the material properties of the lipids? What is the impact of calcium in the tubular re-arrangements? Our artificial organelle system addresses these and related questions.
Origins of life and protocells
The nature of the physical and chemical mechanisms behind the formation, growth and division of the earliest protocells is among the key questions concerning the origin of life. Establishing a simple pathway for the assembly of protocell structures from the primordial soup is a particular challenge. Emerging evidence supporting the assumption that solid surfaces have a governing role in protocell formation has recently expanded the scope, and created new inspiration for investigation. We aim to establish the physicochemical pathways of amphiphile-based membranes on solid surfaces resulting in formation, growth and function of of spherical single-membrane compartments solely driven by the materials properties of the interfaces.
Non-trivial Biomembrane Ruptures
Biological membranes often form circular pores, but they can sometimes break like rigid materials. How do biomembranes rupture like solid materials? What determines the pattern formed by a rupturing biomembrane? Why do these fractures sometimes follow dynamics similar to those observed in earthquakes? How do we control pore formation and sealing in the plasma membrane? We are currently investigating these, and related questions.
Our doors are open to anyone interested in learning about or participating in our research. For more details, please see the overview of the project themes.