Reverse engineering the vertebrate molecular machinery for magnetic biomineralisation

Activitiy code: ERC-SG-LS9
Principal Investigator: Prof. Gil Gregor Westmeyer
Host Institution: Helmholtz-Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt


In order to understand distributed biological networks and invent effective molecular therapies, we need to be able to image and control molecular processes across entire live organisms.
Although an arsenal of genetically encoded fluorescent sensors and light-activated proteins has recently been developed to visualize and manipulate cellular activity, these methods all suffer from the poor penetration of light through biological tissue, which makes them rather invasive for practical in vivo use in animal models and prevents whole-organ coverage.

To overcome these substantial limitations of optical methods, I thus propose a reverse engineering project to functionally dissect the molecular machinery for magnetic biomineralisation in eukaryotic cells and build a new bioengineering platform for genetically controlled bio-magnetic interfaces. To achieve this goal, we will use a combination of magnetic cell sorting and biophysical characterization, targeted analysis and -omics approaches as well as genetic tools. This scientific program will break the ground for non-invasive sensing and actuation of molecular processes via magnetic fields based on genetic control over the biosynthesis of magnetic biominerals.

Project details:

Start date: 2013-01-01
End date: 2017-12-31
EU-Contribution: EUR 1 469 100
Total costs: EUR 1 469 100
Funding scheme: ERC Starting Grant 2012

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    • Dr. Angela Richter
    • Delegate for the research area Earth and Environment
      Helmholtz Association