We use focused laser beams (shown in red) to grab hold of microscopic particles by photon pressure.

Justin Molloy : Areas of interest

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The principal goal of the lab is to understand the molecular mechanism of force production by acto-myosin and how proteins and organelles move around within living cells. Laser-based optical methods like optical tweezers and total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy allow us to observe, track and manipulate individual molecules either in isolated preparations or within living cells.

Molecular motors convert chemical energy into mechanical work and power processes like muscle contraction, cell migration and DNA processing; they are critical to the healthy function of our cells. We are interested in diverse aspects of human health, including how the malarial parasite gains entry into human blood cells, the mechanism of human hearing, and how the two strands of DNA are separated and copied.

Our laser-based tools enable us to visualize and manipulate individual molecules so that we can understand molecular mechanisms with unprecedented precision. Recent work has shown how actin filaments become aligned by myosin motors in migrating cells, and dual-colour fluorescence imaging has allowed us to image individual G-protein coupled receptors at the cell membrane.

Optical tweezers and Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy

Figure 1: Optical tweezers (left) and Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (right) enable individual molecules to be manipulated and imaged.