Limb regeneration and attosecond research each get $1 million from Keck Foundation
| 27 January 2010
BERKELEY — Two
University of California, Berkeley, research projects that push the
boundaries of their fields have each received $1 million grants from
the W.M. Keck Foundation. One grant will fund research on limb and
organ regeneration, while the other will support a laser laboratory
that probes the movement of electrons on the attosecond timescale.
Keck grants target unconventional, high-risk research that has the
potential to transform the fields of bioengineering and ultrafast laser
One of the projects, headed by Lydia Sohn, associate
professor of mechanical engineering, will use innovative
microtechnologies to explore what stops mammals from re-growing
functional tissue after birth. Sohn will work with Irina Conboy and Amy
Herr, both assistant professors of bioengineering, to investigate the
cellular and molecular determinants that govern the regeneration of
limbs and organs, aiming to gain insights that could lead to important
new medical therapies.
"There is still no clear understanding
as to why mammalian cells are able to develop into limbs during the
embryonic stage, but then lose that regenerative capacity after birth,"
said Sohn. "We will be inventing new tools to isolate and study, at the
single cell level, the few cells that are important for tissue
regeneration in mammals, and then creating 3-D models to synthetically
recreate the regenerative process. It's an approach that has never been
tried before and, if successful, would mark a major milestone in
biomedicine and engineering."
The other Keck grant will help
researchers peek into the dynamics of electron motion by developing a
laser laboratory capable of producing pulses on the attosecond time
scale. One attosecond is one quintillionth of a second. It takes about
24 attoseconds for an electron to circulate in a hydrogen atom.
investigator Stephen Leone, professor of chemistry and physics, and
Daniel Neumark, professor of chemistry, will use the award to establish
an attosecond science laboratory in the College of Chemistry. They will
apply isolated attosecond pulses for the first time to elucidate the
movement of electrons in solid-state materials, with potential
applications in the development of more efficient solar photovoltaic
and semiconductor materials.
"We are pushing the limits of
high-speed dynamics," said Leone, who recently received a national
security fellowship for similar work from the U.S. Department of
Defense. "Electrons are one of our modern workhorses, and for many
applications, we need to understand how they move. The results will
form a fundamental basis for chemical and physical transformations."
Keck Foundation was established in 1954 in Los Angeles by William Myron
Keck, founder of The Superior Oil Company. The foundation’s
grant-making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of
science, engineering and medical research, in addition to undergraduate
education and community service projects in Southern California.
• Related story: College of Chemistry article on attosecond