UNC’s Dr. Kerry Bloom: Using NanoMagnetics To Explore DNA Segregation, Replication, Repair
Well-known for his work with chromosome segregation, Dr. Kerry Bloom and his staff the Bloom Lab at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill are using magnetic nanotechnology to unlock a deeper understanding of the spring-like properties of DNA in cellular processes. Dr. Bloom, who also serves as professor at UNC’s Department of Biology, discusses his work with NanoScienceWorks.org
The Bloom Lab’s work is evidence that new tools in nanotechnology and genetic engineering are changing how researchers look at the molecular dynamics in living cells. Specifically, the Bloom Lab uses a combined genetic, molecular, and cytological approach to gain insights into the segregation process during cell division. Bloom researchers are working to understand how force influences DNA replication, repair, transcription and segregation within the chromosome, and more broadly how force is coupled to chemical reactions. Understanding the influence of force to the chromosomes and chemical reactions then leads to developing models of polymer relaxation to understand how force impacts molecules in living cells.
Dr. Bloom described the work to NanoScienceWorks.org: “We apply [a nano-magnetic] force to single DNA molecules in vitro. Together with genetic engineering in yeast, we are using this technology to develop non-invasive ways to measure force in biological systems. The payoffs could be enormous. Ultimately, these approaches will allow researchers to study single DNA molecules in live cells, which will lead to a mechanistic understanding of chromosome segregation."
Bloom Lab Unlocks Tools for DNA Researchers
As Dr. Bloom points out, research in this area is nothing new: “Scientists have been interested in DNA for well over 60 years.” However, with the development of nanotechnology, modern researchers now have the tools to help them unlock the coding and mechanical features of DNA. “With new nanotechnology, we can resuscitate the interest in how the mechanical properties of DNA contribute to cellular function.” Dr. Bloom is especially intrigued by the way nano is merging genetics with biophysics. Traditionally, “the geneticists have been focused on the cellular parts list (while) physicists are interested in the behavior of molecules in defined conditions.”
Dr. Bloom recently received a research fellowship by Nikon to focus on the visualization of centromere DNA in the mitotic spindle. Through the lab’s research, he is seeking to build artificial chromosomes so as to study their organization and distribution when cells divide. He is also working towards the introduction of chromosomes into living cells. “Through these studies we are starting to gain significant insights into how chromosomes are organized and the mechanisms responsible for chromosome distribution during the life of a cell.”
While he is known internationally for his research, in North Carolina Dr. Bloom is known as an exceptional teacher; both to the second graders he instructs periodically at a local elementary school and to the university students who, through him, are privy to some of the most unique developments in nanobiology before they find their way into a textbook.
According to the description written by students, “KB hammers out a ROCKIN' Genetics course,” and is known for, “ poppin' through a cell cycle regulation with some hip undergrads and grads.”
Those interested in reading papers generated by the Bloom Laboratory can download them at http://www.bio.unc.edu/Faculty/Bloom/lab/