Ruixuan Gao

University of Illinois Chicago
2022 Scholar

Research Interests

Multiplexed Molecular Imaging of Late-Phase Enveloped Virus Replication

Living organisms are composed of structures spanning orders of magnitude in size, and are assembled from tens of thousands of, if not more, distinct molecular entities. Our lab’s research centers on the molecular nature of biological structures and processes. We are interested in how basic molecular building blocks—such as proteins, lipids, and RNAs—assemble and interact with one another to achieve specific biological functions, or cause dysfunctions.

We develop chemical, physical, and biomolecular tools that map and track these molecular building blocks at their natural length scale and temporal resolution. Basing our approach on chemical synthesis and molecular biology, we apply state-of-the-art methods in microscopy, bioengineering, and computational sciences to a range of biological questions at the molecular scale. Our lab’s current focus are as follows:

  1. Molecular components and chemical compositions of living organisms. Biological structures in living organisms span multiple orders of magnitude in size—ranging from nanometers to centimeters. We use chemical and material tools to study the molecular components and chemical compositions of these structures. Specifically, we leverage rational design of macromolecular matrices, supramolecular assemblies, and chemical linkers/probes to selectively target, identify, and visualize molecular entities in cells and tissues. Additionally, we develop (bio)chemical probes to map and track chemical compositions and dynamics in biological systems.
  2. Microscopy and bioimaging. Observing dynamic biological processes at the molecular scale requires an imaging modality that captures thousands of molecular targets or more at nanoscopic spatial resolution and sub-millisecond temporal resolution. Currently, no microscopy methods fulfill these criteria concurrently. We develop fluorescence microscopy methods that overcome such limitations, including super-resolution microscopy and light-sheet microscopy.
  3. Structure, function, and pathology. We seek to elucidate structures and processes central to biology and human health. For instance, our group is interested in the anatomy and (dys)function of the nervous system, such as ultrastructure of synapses, chemical profile of synaptic transmission, long-range neuronal connections, and pathological effects of misfolded proteins in neuropathological brains. We also apply proteomics and transcriptomics approach to map endogenous and exogenous molecular markers in, for example, cancerous and clinical specimens.

Return to 2022 Scholars