The Lu Group’s interests lie at the interface between chemistry and biology. We are developing innovative chemical approaches to provide deeper insight into biological structures and functions, while also taking advantage of recently developed biological tools to advance many areas in chemistry, such as inorganic chemistry, chemical biology, analytical chemistry, and materials chemistry. We strive to make significant contributions in three principal areas of research:
Synthesis and study of structural and functional mimics of metalloenzymes, as well as the applications of these mimics as biocatalysts in renewable energy generation and small-molecule activation and transformation.
In vitro selection of DNAzymes/aptamers and development of highly sensitive and selective sensors and imaging agents for detection of metal ions and small-molecule targets with applications in environmental monitoring, food safety, and medical diagnostics and imaging.
Using DNA for encoded synthesis and directed assembly of nanomaterials, as well as the applications of these nanomaterials as theranostic agents for early detection of diseases such as cancers and targeted drug delivery.
| New DNAzyme reveals different Li+ accumulation pattern in patient neurons | Lithium has been a drug for treating bipolar disorder (BD), a mental health condition marked by extreme mood swings since 1949. But scientists still don’t have a clear understanding of how the drug works, because of lack of a sensor selective for Li+. Recently, our paper published in ACS Central Science, shine new light on bipolar disorder by developing a new DNAzyme-based sensor specifically for Li+ in live cells, discovering that neurons from BD patients accumulate higher levels of lithium than healthy controls. The paper has gathered attention from many news outlets, including Eureka Alert, Science Daily , Mirage News, and others. See the commentary on the article in ACS.
| DNA sensor quickly determines whether viruses are infectious | Most tests for viruses, including SAR2-Cov-2, are based on detecting viral RNA and antigen and have been shown to be poor in informing whether a virus is infectious or not. They may result in delayed treatment or quarantine, or premature release of those who may still be contagious. Ana’s paper, published in Science Advances , address this key issue by demonstrating direct detection of human adenovirus or SARS-CoV-2 with ability to inform infectivity using DNA aptamer-nanopore sensors. See news release from UIUC News Bureau. The paper has gathered attention from many news outlets, including Chemical and Engineering News and others.
| Meet “PANDA”, another gene scissor made with DNAzymes, first reported in Mingkuan’s paper
. With “PANDA”, DNAzymes can now cut double-stranded DNA, making them powerful alternatives for protein-based genetic engineering systems. See the news release from UIUC News Bureau
2021 Apr | Yiming has received this year’s Walter G Klemperer Dissertation Award in Materials Chemistry. Congratulations, Yiming!
2021 Mar | Mandira Banik has just received the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Congratulations, Mandy!
2021 Mar | Congratulations, Suds, Dr. Dwaraknath, for your successful PhD defense! Best wishes in your continued success in your postdoc at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab!
| Lu group is a member of the team
that has received $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a device that can detect cancer biomarkers with just a few drops of blood.