While standard biochemistry and molecular biological techniques suffice for much of our work, several of our studies require sophisticated state-of-the-art equipment that is made available to us at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) here at UCLA or in the laboratories of our collaborators.
Biophysics and Structural Biology
By “in vivo” experiments we mean ones performed in host cells (rather than in host animals, which is how the term “in vivo” is more generally used, in virology and medical contexts). And by “host cells” we mean controlled monolayers of cells in petri dishes. In this classical form the cells can easily be transfected by RNA or VLPs, or infected by virus, and the transformed cells can easily be assayed in a large number of ways. Ultimately, we would like to transform and assay cells that have been targeted in animals, but we need first to demonstrate and understand how changes of interest can be effected under the controlled conditions of cell culture.
Virus particles can be as simple as a molecule of RNA or DNA inside a spherical shell – the “capsid” – made up of multiple copies of a single protein. Further, because viruses only “become alive” when they are inside their hosts, it is possible to study them as physical objects, i.e., to do the same controlled experiments (and theory) on them that one routinely does with more familiar polymer and colloidal systems.