Selective transport through biological and bio-mimetic nano-channels: mathematical modeling meets experiments (13w5135)

Arriving in Banff, Alberta Sunday, January 20 and departing Friday January 25, 2013


Michael Elbaum (Weizmann Institute of Science)

(Los Alamos National Laboratory)

(University of Hawaii at Manoa)

(University of Toronto)


The emerging consensus in the field is that the synergy between computational, theoretical, and experimental approaches will be needed in the next few years to understand the organizing biophysical principles of transport through the NPC and related bio-mimetic devices, as well as in order to move towards real-world applications. In particular, realization of the full potential of such collaborative efforts will require bridging the gaps in cultures and ways of thinking between biologists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, and engineers.

This workshop will be devoted to the quantitative understanding of transport through the NPC and related biological and artificial nano-channels, with the goal of elucidating the basic biophysical principles and leveraging these principles towards applications in bio-nano-technology. The focus on a particular, well-characterized system such as the NPC would allow for the development of the concepts and applications of mathematical tools in a systematic manner, continuously checked by the experimental data. With progress in both experiments and theory, clear communication and collaborative efforts of scientist across fields will certainly lead to new advancements in understanding transport through biological and artificial devices. Such collaborations would also likely raise new mathematical problems that require novel techniques for their solution.

This program started to be realized at the previous, highly successful, workshops held in New Mexico under the auspices of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter in August 2008 and July 2010, which brought together major players working on the transport through the NPC and nanochannels (text{ and}). On the experimental side workshop included molecular, structural, and cell biologists, biophysical chemists, and material/nanoscientists, with expertise in biological transport phenomena and nanomaterials. On the theoretical/computational side workshop included physicists and computational biologists, with expertise in molecular dynamics simulations, statistical physics, and mathematical modeling of transport. These workshops lead to collaborations between theoreticians and experimentalist, which in turn advanced the field, and put forth new problems the community needs to tackle.

Despite a certain overlap in terms of covered topics and participants, the current workshop will not replicate the previous ones but rather deepen the discussion of existing questions and expand the subject matter with the emphasis on mathematical and physical aspects. In particular, specific topics of focus of the current workshop, which are rapidly arising both in the context of the NPC per and in the context of nano-technological applications will be:

1. In depth discussion of the physics of the behavior of confined flexible filaments on the nano-scale, such as the unfolded proteins lining the passageway of the NPC, which remains central for the understanding the gating of the NPC and related nano-channels. This topic reflects the rapid increase of the theoretical and coarse-grained modeling works on the subject.

2. Multi-scale connection of such physical modeling to more molecular picture of the behavior of the natively unfolded, unstructured proteins in other biological contexts.

3. Discussion of general principles of design and function of selective nano-channels arising from the quantitative modeling of experiments in both biological and nano-technological contexts, with a particular emphasis on recent artificial nano-devices that mimic the NPC.