Molecular Virology/Nano-Imaging/Development of anti-viral drugs

The central scientific interest of our laboratory is to investigate the virus-host interactions in various aspects, including the interaction of virus with cellular receptors, intracellular transportation of virus, virus-induced host cellular responses. Our laboratory particularly centers on important reemerging viruses, including Dengue virus (DENV), Zika virus (ZIKV) and SARS-CoV-2,  that are major threats to human health and well-being.  Given that viruses are highly dependent on the virus-host interactions for productive replication and the cellular heterogeneity presents major challenges in biomedical research, conventional approaches that examine the overall average outcome of the entire population of cells and viruses in a dish are difficult to address some obscure but critical issues. Therefore, single-virus analysis, such as single-virus tracking (SVT) and optical tweezers (OTs), provide powerful tools to non-invasively detect, monitor and manipulate the behavior of virus as well as host cellular responses, including the dynamics of intracellular networks, virus-host interaction, and viral trafficking, at a single-virus resolution in living cells. Knowledge of the characterizations of the molecular events would enormously improve our understanding of the complicated progress of virus infection, and be valuable in designing and development of anti-virus agents.

Understanding the molecular mechanisms as well as cellular pathways of complex biological processes is one of the major goals in modern biology. Moreover, visualizing and quantifying pertinent molecular interactions have become the theme of the ongoing biomedical studies. Taking advantage of recent rapid advancements in fluorescence imaging that have greatly improved the spatial resolution, detection sensitivity, and flexibility, we are developing advanced nano-imaging technologies, such as multi-color real-time fluorescent imaging, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) imaging, and optical tweezers. By combining these advance imaging approaches with SVT, we investigate the dynamics of virus-host interactions and viral trafficking in living cells in a non-invasive manner. Currently, there are four major projects conducting in lab:

  • To reveal the intracellular trafficking pathways of virus and dissect various virus-host interactions during viral infection
  • To elucidate the roles of autophagy in virus infection
  • To visualize and mechanically quantify the physical interaction forces between virus and host cellular receptors at a single-virus level
  • To develop image-based screening platforms for screening anti-viral drugs