Dynamic Colloidal Systems (DCS)
"What I cannot create, I do not understand"
- Richard Feynman
The above quote aptly describes the spirit in which we pursue our work in Lab. In order to understand the underlying principles which allow living cells to function, we create simplistic model colloids (artificial cells) to mimic a particular aspect of cellular life such as movement, structural reorganization, communication and replication. We employ a bottom-up approach in our laboratory, i.e. we assemble artificial cells from individual components (lipids, silica nanoparticles, proteins, polymers, etc.) and endow them with certain properties and functions such as movement, self-organization and communication.
Some of our current interests are given below:
1. Motility: Conventional methodologies employed by nanoscopic objects (diffusiophoresis, electrophoresis, etc.) typically fail to produce any movement in the microscale objects. We are currently developing novel ways to move using buoyancy forces and marangoni forces. Marangoni forces can be generated by surface tension differences leading interfacial flows which can be used to move microscopic colloids or artificial cells. We are also developing shape-shifting microgels for designing microrollers capable of microplastics capture and degradation.
B.V.V.S. Pavan Kumar et. al. Nat. Chem. 2018, 10, 1154.
2. Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS): LLPS is an interesting phenomenon where we have polymer-rich droplets of water in water itself! This has also been observed in living cells but their role is not well understood. Our focus is on coacervates which are formed due to 'associative LLPS' and we are interested in multiphasic coacervates and their properties, dynamics and functions.
3. Communication between artificial cells: Living cells communicate using a variety of signals such as chemical, electrical and mechanical. We have developed artificial microcompartments capable of chemical communication via exchange of chemical signals for transfer of information. We are currently interested in how distance between cells can be used to regulate communication or exchange of chemical signals.
B.V.V.S. Pavan Kumar et. al. Frontiers Mol. Biosci. 2022.