Dr. Karmella A. Haynes, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School
Department of Systems Biology
200 Longwood Ave. WAB 536
Boston, MA 02115
karmella_haynes at hms dot harvard dot edu
- 2008 - present, NIH NRSA Postdoctoral research fellow in Synthetic Biology, Harvard Medical School
- 2006-2008, HHMI Postdoctoral research/ teaching fellow in Synthetic Biology, Davidson College
- 2006, Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics, Washington University in St. Louis
- 1999, B.S. in Biology, Florida A&M University
The field of synthetic biology aims to engineer tiny machines, fashioned from characterized DNA and protein components, that perform useful functions, like synthesizing useful metabolites, attacking tumors, and detecting compounds in the environment. Currently as a postdoc in the lab of Pam Silver at Harvard Medical School, I am exploring the use of eukaryotic proteins as modular parts that can be used to build rationally designed devices in living cells.
Building Devices to Sense Developmental Cues
So far, scientists have shown that molecular biology can be reconstructed to perform potentially useful tasks such as toggle switching, oscillation, pulsing, signal inversion, and multi-input processing. I am interested in developing simple modules that can feed useful biological information into these systems so that a device becomes activated or deactivated in response to developmental changes or disease. Two cellular cues that I am focusing on currently are miRNA expression and chromatin modification. Synthetic devices that can read cellular cues and generate therapeutic outputs (RNA, enzymes, etc.) will be a powerful tool for medicine.
Chromatin, An Untapped Resource for Parts
Nature provides an abundant source of functional proteins for designing new systems. To date, chromatin proteins remain an untapped resource. Chromatin proteins called "effectors" have the remarkable ability to discriminate and bind to specific post-translational modifications of proteins called histones. Can a synthetic protein device be engineered to read histone modifications? Can we use this type of device as a new tool to monitor changes in histone modifications in single living cells? Accomplishing these goals will allow scientists to probe histone modification at unprecedented resolution, thus furthering our understanding of the dynamics of histone modifications associated with cancer and normal cell development.
Calculating Bacteria: Real Computer Bugs?
A group of scientists reports in the Journal of Biological Engineering that they have created specially modified E. coli bacteria capable of performing one specific type of calculation — a puzzle known as the "pancake flipping problem." Karmella Haynes, one of the researchers, discusses the prospects for biologically based computing, and ways in which calculating bacteria might be useful.
Synthetic Biologist Karmella Haynes
This video produced for Teachers' Domain profiles Karmella Haynes, a post-doctoral researcher working in the emerging field of synthetic biology. Karmella explains how she uses biotechnology to build living machines, or devices, from genes.
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Science Art Gallery
In addition to science research, I paint and draw. Below are pieces that have a scientific theme. You can view my other work at http://www.karmellahaynes.com