Shu Jia, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, is part of a team of researchers from three different institutions utilizing a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to focus on human cardiac opto-epigenetics.
Jia and his collaborators from George Washington University and Massachusetts General Hospital are recipients of a $2 million, four-year award from the NSF’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI), for Chromatin and Epigenetic Engineering.
The research team will develop a new framework and technology for linking epigenetic modulation to phenotype (epigenetics is the study of the biological mechanisms that switch genes on and off). The team is proposing development of new integrated imaging system for super-resolution imaging.
“Documenting the sequence of events triggered by the epigenetic master-regulators of cell function has a broader impact for the fundamental understanding of biological function,” Jia says, “No such technology has been developed to date to link genome re-arrangement to phenotypic signatures in live cells upon an opto-epigenetic trigger.”
The team expects its approach to provide a powerful way to probe chromatin-mediated control of transcription in real time, and generate fundamentally new information currently not available through chromatin mapping.
The Jia lab has made its reputation working on super-resolution optical microscopy, developing and applying advanced biophotonic tools to study complex, dynamic biological systems at the nanometer scale. The team’s research aims to invent a host of methods that enable the extraction of structural, molecular and functional information from intact tissues and organisms.
The EFRI program provides support of fundamental discovery at the frontiers of engineering research and education, investing in transformative opportunities potentially leading to new areas for fundamental or applied research; new industries or capabilities that result in a leadership position for the country; and/or significant progress on a recognized national need or grand challenge.