Protein Assembly


Biophysics in my view is more than the use of physics to help biologists solve problems they find challenging. Biophysics is an attempt to identify the essential physical principles involved in various biological systems, such as large biological molecules. Although the basic physical laws are well known, their interplay produces new and unexpected behavior, much as high temperature superconductivity represented an unexpected collective phenomenon in solids. While there is enormous complexity in biomolecules, the challenge is to discern the essential features without having to know all the details.

One hopes to understand biomolecules at least well enough to deal with their malfunctions, as in the case of various diseases. One of the best studied molecules is the oxygen transporter, hemoglobin. A small mutation turns this simple molecule into a potentially dangerous agent in sickle cell disease. Usually hemoglobin molecules fill the red cell like beans fill a bean bag, leaving it flexible and floppy, but in sickle cell disease the molecules aggregate to stiffen the red cell and block circulation. Our laboratory is actively studying the behavior of sickle hemoglobin molecules to find approaches for the treatment of this disease, and to gain deeper insights into molecular aggregations in biology.


My laboratory works on biological physics questions that will lead us to understand how proteins disease, and in health.  We are mainly an experimental physics group, but we do our share of theory too!

Prof Frank Ferrone