While molecular biology was making astonishing advancements over the last half-century, physiology and physical biology fell out of favor in the 1970s. However, as molecular biology advances, these once-unfashionable domains of biology begin to resurge. We are interested in understanding and exploiting dynamic biological behaviors by combining old and new ideas and learning old to create new.

Bacterial electrophysiology:

Electrophysiology and bioelectrical signaling are most well studied in neuroscience. But, studies have shown that bioelectrical signaling is more universal than generally believed. In fact, bioelectrical signaling exists in all main domains of life -from bacteria, plants to animal somatic cells. We are interested in decoding bacterial electrical signaling during cellular differentiation, antibiotics tolerance and cell division. We believe that investigating these well-studied cellular events from the bioelectricity perspective will reveal new insights to biological systems.

Benarroch & Asally (2020) Trends in Microbiology
Sirec et al. (2019) iScience 16:378-389
Stratford et al. (2019) PNAS 116(19): 9552-57
Prindle et al. (2015) Nature 527:59-63

  Collective dynamics:

Self-organization is a universal phenomenon in biology — in fact that is how you are formed into a shape by cells! Although bacteria are commonly thought as single-cellular organisms, it has become clear that bacterial cells can also self-organize into dynamic patterns and exhibit multi-cellular properties. Intriguingly, the self-organized communities of microbes, such as biofilms and swarms, can tolerate the levels of antibiotics that are lethal to the genetically identical cells in the isolate. This is important in the face of rising concerns about antimicrobial resistance!! We investigate the roles played by physical (e.g. mechanical and electrical) interactions during the emergence of multicellular properties.

Grobas, Polin & Asally (2021) eLife 10:e62632
Jiang et al. (2018) ISME Journal 12:1443-56
Liu et al. (2015) Nature 527:59-63
Asally et al. (2012) PNAS 109(46):1889-96

Synthetic Biology and Tool developments:

We won't stop by gaining understanding!! We are committed to exploiting our understanding and our ideas to develop new technologies and strategy designs for engineering and controlling bacterial functions. We make experimental tools using microcomputers and 3D printers and synthetic-biology tools through genetic engineering. We hope to bridge the gap between electronics and biology. One company, Cytecom Ltd, has been spun out from the lab.

Kantsler et al. (2019) ACS Synthetic Biology
Stratford et al. (2019) PNAS 116(19):9552-57
Kano et al. (2018) ALIFE 30:544-545

Our Approach

Typically, we take low-throughput bottom-down approaches at the interface of biology and physics. We combine time-lapse microscopy and macroscopy, microfluidics, molecular genetics, and biochemical assays. The design-build-test cycle is taken for understanding of biological systems and developing of new technologies. Our approach to modelling is aimed toward gaining qualitative understanding through quantitative analyses.
Our main model organism is the gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis which inhabits a wide range of environment.

“The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.” -Richard W. Hamming

We are sincerely grateful for the funding supports from various sources.
Our research has been generously supported by: