MIT Department: Biological Engineering
Undergraduate Institution: Harvey Mudd College
Faculty Mentor: Ron Weiss
Research Supervisor: Brian Teague, Katherine Kiwimagi, Michelle Chang
I am originally from Aliso Viejo, California and moved just a few hours drive away to Claremont, California for school. I am currently a sophomore pursuing a joint major in Biology and Chemistry at Harvey Mudd College. My current research interests include synthetic biology, biofuels, and biomaterials. In my free time I like to ski, rock climb, and pretty much anything else outdoors.
2017 Research Abstract
Building the Phloretin Signaling System
Christopher Doering, Department of Biology, Harvey Mudd College
Katherine Kiwimagi, Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ron Weiss, Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The last twenty or so years have seen a rapid expansion in our knowledge of Biology on both a cellular and molecular level. With this growing knowledge, some researchers have jumped from study to implementation, turning from biological science to biological engineering. One instance of this jump is the engineered system focused around the small, fast diffusing protein phloretin. Previous researchers created the necessary system to allow mammalian cells to produce phloretin, which is naturally found in the root bark of apple trees. Since phloretin is entirely foreign, it will not interfere with any natural mammalian signaling pathways, making it an ideal signaling molecule. As a system in the early stages of development, much can be done to refine its inner workings. Although many avenues have been explored, there are many more to examine before the phloretin system is fully functioning. We hope the system can be purposed in creating a phloretin concentration gradient, the prospects of which we have explored in computational analysis. As part our computational work, we created a new easy way to classify gradient shapes, an important aspect for the system’s long term application. By tying cellular response to ambient phloretin concentration, cellular response can be coordinated with respect to spatial coordinates within a diffusion gradient. Such spatially-coordinated cellular response has wide reaching applications within synthetic tissue development. With a phloretin gradient, we can precisely control cell differentiation to create organoids and other specialized synthetic tissues.