Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Kevin Freedman received a grant from the Human Frontier Science Program to study melanin using single cell and single molecules technologies. Dr. Freedman will be working with NASA scientist Armando Azua-Bustos of the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid, Spain. Melanins are an important class of molecules which are synthesized by all life on earth from bacteria to humans. The ubiquity of the molecule, however, has not aided the answering of fundamental questions about melanin and its biological significance in the diverse cell types in which it occupies. Although typically thought to function as a UV-screening pigment, the inability of many bioanalytical techniques to study melanin has led to sparse biochemical characterization and possibly over-looked biological functions. Individual melanin molecules as well as molecule-to- molecule heterogeneity will be rapidly interrogated at the single-molecule level with the added benefit of measuring microsecond kinetics of the molecule in the presence of UV light. This project will build on cutting-edge molecular and cell characterization techniques in pursuit of fundamental questions about melanin and its response to UV light exposure; particularly its impact on the synthesis of biochemical energy and melanin-protein disassociation kinetics.

For further information on Professor Freedman’s research, please visit his lab website