One of the main unsolved problems of cell design is how to enable cells to sense certain soluble molecules. Finding ways to do this would allow scientists to engineer therapeutic cells that could autonomously sense specified disease or injury signals and apply treatments or repairs with precision.
Dr. Michael Garton, Canada Research Chair in Synthetic Biology, is designing modular receptor systems that will expand cells’ abilities to recognize their environments. He and his research team are combining antibody recognition domains with different components of the Notch signalling system (a cell signalling system present in most animals) and redesigning key interfaces so the system can recognize soluble molecules. They hope that by using antibodies, it will be possible to construct a huge range of detectors.