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Research

1. Emergence and evolution of metabolic excretions and interactions in microbes (funded by NSF/BBSRC) (in collaboration with Wenying Shou). Metabolic interactions, mediated by excreted metabolites, are shown to be common within the microbial world, as well as between microbes and cells of higher organisms. We would like to understand how metabolic interactions emerge in the first place and how they subsequently evolve. This work integrates both computational models and experimental work (in yeast and bacteria).

2. Feedbacks between metabolism at cell level and spatial organisation at population level (funded by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation). Given that most cells are motile, it can be readily envisioned that metabolic excretions and interactions at cell cellular level can lead to spatial organisation at population level. While such a feedback can be readily envisioned, it has not been studied in detail. In a new project, we aim to study how metabolic interactions can lead to spatial organisation and vice versa using milli- and micro-fluidic devices. This work aims to integrate both models and experimental work (in bacteria).

3. Electrical control of cellular metabolism (funded by Cancer Research UK) (in collaboration with Pat Unwin). Most of metabolism revolves around redox reactions, transferring electrons among different molecules and utilising conserved moieties such as NAD+/NADH. In both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, the redox processes and maintenance of cellular NAD+/NADH ratio is also tightly interlinked with membrane potential and respiration. These observations raise the possibility that control of redox balances could provide a means to control cellular metabolism. We are currently exploring the use of redox mediators and electric fields (together with micro electrodes and micro-fluidics) to study and influence relations between cellular metabolic fluxes, membrane potential, and cellular redox balance. This work focuses on mammalian cells (HeLa) and yeast (S. cerevisiae).

5. Deciphering microbial interactions in microbial communities using temporal metagenomics (currently in-between funding) (in collaboration with Christopher Quince). Following on from a recent project on complex methanogenic communities involved in anaerobic digestion, we have initiated a temporal metagenomics study (anaerodynamics project) of such communities using weekly sampling of industrial-scale reactors. We are particularly focusing on using temporal aspect of the study and availability of meta-data to decipher microbial interactions in these complex communities and their dynamics over time.

4. Modelling of metabolic dynamics (currently in-between funding) (in collaboration with Elisenda Feliu and Alex Fletcher). Composed of a myriad of interconnected reactions, and involving shared conserved moieties and regulatory mechanisms, metabolism is a complex dynamical system. We are interested in understanding the early emergence of such metabolic systems as well their possible dynamical determinants. Currently, we are developing mathematical models to try and understand how specific biochemical and biophysical mechanisms can emerge and determine the dynamics in small metabolic systems.