The Payne Lab studies the interaction of materials with cells with the goal of using material properties to control cellular outcomes. Current research investigates nanoparticles (TiO2, colloidal gold, SPIONs, quantum dots) and conducting polymer nanowires.
Nanoparticles have important biomedical applications ranging from the treatment of human disease with gene therapy to understanding basic cellular functions with fluorescent probes. In all of these applications, nanoparticles come into contact with a complex mixture of extracellular proteins. The Payne Lab is interested in understanding how adsorption of proteins onto the surface of a nanoparticle alters the interaction of the nanoparticle with a cell. By understanding how nanoparticles interact with cells in a realistic biological environment, we will be able to design better nanoparticles for the treatment and detection of human disease.
The integration of biocompatible conducting polymers with cells has important applications in regenerative medicine. The Payne Lab is developing conducting polymer wires to provide cellular and sub-cellular control of the electrical properties of cells.
Observing the interactions of cells with materials requires the spatial and temporal resolution provided by fluorescence microscopy. While recent developments in fluorescence microscopy make it possible to image many of the dynamic events that are essential to cellular function, new methods are necessary to observe the dynamics of single molecules inside living cells. Imaging within live cells is difficult as the emission from fluorescent probes competes with the autofluorescence of the cell. The Payne Lab is developing new optical techniques for quantitative cellular imaging. Optical methods of interest include nanometer-level imaging, spectroscopic single-particle tracking, and multiphoton total internal reflection microscopy.