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2022 Allen Distinguished Investigator Award

The Allen Distinguished Investigator program provides three-year grants between $1M and $1.5M to individuals and teams

Spatial nutrientomics based on DNAzyme and DNA aptamer sensors

Yi Lu is leading a project to engineer DNA molecules in a variety of ways to detect and visualize nutrients in single cells. Because nutrients are often very small molecules — think individual sodium ions or sugar — it’s very difficult to capture them under a microscope using standard methods, and even methods that can detect small nutrient molecules have difficulty separating out nutrients of similar sizes. Lu’s technique aims to light up individual nutrients with DNA fluorescent sensors; the team will also develop methods to send these sensors to different parts of the cell simultaneously to visualize multiple metabolic reactions in the same cell.

This project is part of the 2022 Nutrient Sensing cohort

Researchers in this cohort are developing new technologies to measure or visualize nutrient levels within cells. Their work addresses a key need in the field, namely the ability to capture detailed information about metabolites, chemical compounds, and other nutrients in live individual cells. These new techniques could propel understanding of the basic biology of cells as well as how metabolism or nutrition processing goes wrong in diseases like diabetes or malnutrition.

Science Programs at Allen Institute