476231 Computational and Experimental Investigation of Membrane Biomechanics

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Continental 4 & 5 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Manuela A.A. Ayee, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, Department of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

Research Interests:

Potentially toxic drugs and compounds from endogenous or exogenous sources constantly interact with the human body. Many of these compounds are small molecules that alter the physicochemical properties of physiological membranes, including changing permeability, fluidity, packing, electrostatic potential, rheology, and barrier function. In many instances, this may lead to the development of various pathophysiological states. The molecular mechanisms underlying these changes and their effects on proteins and other membrane structures are not entirely clear and depend strongly on the chemical identities of the offending compounds. My research interests focus on elucidating these molecular mechanisms through a combination of computational and experimental techniques and revealing their role in pathogenesis.

As a faculty member, I will build upon the experience and skills I have gained during my postdoctoral and graduate school training. In my lab, I look forward to applying a combination of: (i) coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, (ii) atomistic simulations, (iii) spectroscopic methods, and (iv) cell biology techniques. By utilizing these methods I aim to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the biophysical and biomechanical consequences of molecules involved in various pathophysiological states, leading to cardiovascular, metabolic, and immunological diseases. My research expertise, experience authoring scientific publications and writing grant proposals, as well as my experience mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students will enable me to establish a competitive research program that focuses on topics at the interface of Chemical Engineering and Biomedicine.

In my current position as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pulmonary T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, under the supervision of Dr. Irena Levitan, I am investigating the influence of bioactive oxidized species on model bilayer and cell membrane biomechanics. These oxidized species have been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis. In this role, by utilizing a combination of experimental and computational methods, I aim to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying the paradoxical impact of pro-atherogenic compounds on endothelial cell stiffening and membrane biomechanics.

As a PhD student in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, Chicago, I undertook coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations to probe the effects of small molecules on the structural and dynamic properties of phospholipid layers. Specifically, I investigated the membrane altering capability of toxins as applied to: (i) the differential cytotoxicity of anticoagulant species, (ii) the role played by endogenous metabolites in causing consciousness impairment, and (iii) the association of various drugs with lipid emulsions acting as detoxification agents. Using my simulation approach, I was able to obtain detailed molecular-level information on the absorption, transport, and partitioning of toxin molecules into model membranes, which provided useful insight and predictions.

Teaching Interests:

In addition to my research experience, I have extensive teaching experience, from elementary through college level. My teaching interests are Numerical and Computational Methods in Chemical Engineering, Biochemical Engineering, Material & Energy Balances, Transport Phenomena, Thermodynamics, and any other special topics related to my research background. Overall, my expertise in interdisciplinary science will serve as a framework for innovative study using both computational and experimental techniques.


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