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, magnetic nanoparticles, colloidal gold, SPIONs, quantum dots), with applications in nanomedicine and environmental and manufacturing exposures, and the use of nano- and micro-electrodes to control the bioelectric properties of cells. We also use lab automation to generate the large data sets necessary for machine learning.

Nanoparticle-cell interactions

Exposure to nanoparticles can be beneficial, such as the use of nanomedicines, or detrimental, such as the inhalation of metal oxide nanoparticles used in industrial applications. In any biological system, nanoparticles are exposed to proteins that adsorb on the surface of the nanoparticle forming a protein corona. The Payne Lab is exploring how these proteins interact with the nanoparticle and how this interaction changes the subsequent interaction with cells. Of specific interest is the inhalation of nanomaterials and the complex environment of the lung.

Bioelectric control of cells

All cells maintain an electrical potential across the plasma membrane driven by an ion gradient. This resting membrane potential is essential for cell growth and division, both in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Recent research has shown that, in addition to growth and division, bacteria utilize changes in this ion gradient for communication and memory. The Payne Lab develops devices to control and image memberane potential, simultaneously. We then use these tools do determine how changes in membrane potential alter bacteria cells. This research will advance applications in synthetic biology, engineered living materials, cell growth in industrial bioreactors, and screening for antibiotic resistance. Beyond bacteria, this research will inform researchers studying the resting membrane potential of mammalian cells with applications in regenerative medicine and cancer. 

Fluorescence microscopy

Observing the interactions of cells with materials requires the spatial and temporal resolution provided by fluorescence microscopy. The Payne Lab uses fluorescence microscopy to measure oxidative stress in cells, track nanoparticles as they are transported through cells, and detect changes in membrane potential. In addition to fluorescence microscopy, students in the Payne Lab develop expertise in electron microscopy, fluorescence and UV-Vis spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering, cell culture, and molecular biology.