The Gilbert Laboratory is an interdisciplinary research program, whose broad focus is the interface between biological energy and mechanical systems. Within this general category, several projects have been developed:
Photocatalysis and energy conversion: Our program has conceived and studied a novel energy conversion technology, termed Photolytically Derived Electro-Chemistry (PDEC), which closely emulates the process of photosynthesis. This system features the use of photolytic energy to elicit charge separation and to drive anodic, (i.e. oxygen generation), and cathodic (i.e. carbon dioxide reduction) chemical reactions. The driving force for this endeavor is the idea that photocatalytic chemistry provides a controllable means for producing the thermodynamic changes needed to power biological and non-biological systems. Research is currently being carried out in the following areas: 1) Photoactive materials development, including the design and fabrication of nanostructures with enhanced photon absorption and photoconductivity, 2) Electro- and photo-electrochemical methods for reducing carbon dioxide to re-usable hydrocarbons, 3) Incorporation of photoactive nanoparticles into carrier biomolecules for cellular delivery, 4) Development of human respiratory life support technology integrating photolytic oxygen generation and carbon dioxide reduction.
Imaging and mechanics: Our laboratory has advanced an imaging and computational framework to study the motion and multi-scale mechanics of architecturally complex tissues, for example, the tongue, heart, and the gastrointestinal tract. Our methodology synthesizes data regarding the orientation of muscle fibers (myoarchitecture) obtained by MRI, intracellular structures, energetics, and mechanics. Our imaging methods determine specific structure-function relationships in muscular tissues by relating mesoscale fiber alignment with local and global metrics of mechanical function. Research is currently being carried out in the following areas; 1) Use of diffusion based NMR methods to image architectural phenotype, focusing on the quantitative distinction between normal and pathological patterns of muscle organization. 2) Characterization of lingual motion and force generation based on the balance of internal (contractile) and external (adhesion, mechanical tethering) forces acting on and generated by myocytes. 3) Study of the relationship between genotypic abnormalities related to defects of myosin binding protein C and the architectural and mechanical phenotypes associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. 4) Development of finite element models of mechanical function derived from myoarchitectural imaging, the biophysics of myofilament interactions, and an understanding of energy generation and utilization.
211D Mugar Life Sciences Building