School Seminar: Professor Neal Devaraj; UC San Diego
Friday, 19 March 11:00am – 12:00pm
This seminar will be delivered via Zoom – Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for zoom link and password.
Speaker: Professor Neal Devaraj; UC San Diego
Host: Professor Richard Payne
Title: Peering into the lipid world
Abstract: Lipids remain one of the most enigmatic classes of biological molecules. Lipids were likely one of the first components necessary for life, yet our understanding of how lipid membranes could have arisen spontaneously is a mystery. Human cells produce thousands of unique lipid species, but the purpose for such diversity remains unknown. Dysregulation of lipid metabolism is a key factor in some of the most common diseases that afflict human beings. I will discuss our lab’s efforts in using imaging and chemistry to understand the assembly and function lipids. We are watching the formation of artificial cells that consist of synthetic membranes that can continually reproduce. We are designing specific chemical reactions to manipulate and image lipids within living cells during cell death and disease. Our ultimate goal is to answer fundamental questions about the origins of lipid membranes and build a functional understanding of the diverse array of lipids present in life today.
Neal K. Devaraj is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Russell F. Doolittle Faculty Scholar at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). A major research thrust of his lab involves understanding how non-living matter, such as simple organic molecules, can assemble to form life. Along these lines, his research group has developed approaches for the in-situ synthesis of synthetic cell membranes by using selective reactions to “stitch” together lipid fragments. This work has enabled the demonstration of self-reproducing lipid vesicles and artificial membranes that can remodel their chemical structure. Recently, his lab has developed techniques to synthesize lipid species within living cells, enabling studies that decipher how lipid structure affects cellular function. For his scientific contributions, Professor Devaraj has been recognized by multiple awards including the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry, the Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, and being named a Blavatnik National Laureate in Chemistry.