The Zhang lab at the UCSD Bioengineering department is interested in developing novel genome technologies towards the applications in stem cell research, brain mapping and human disease studies.
We are developing various methods for synthesis, manipulation and sequencing of DNA molecules. Examples include
- single-cell genome sequencing;
- single-cell transcriptome sequencing;
- large-scale DNA synthesis on programmable DNA chips;
- targeted digital analysis of epigenome;
- imaging and cell tracking.
Almost every single aspect of our genome-scale studies depends on bioinformatics. We do large-scale "manipulation" of DNA molecules in computer before and after processing them in test tubes. Here are some examples:
- designing DNA probes for capturing & sequencing SNPs/Exons, which also includes various simulation;
- mapping and analysis of next-generation DNA sequencing data;
- de novo assembling of single-cell genome sequencing data;
- haplotype assembling and analysis of single molecule sequencing data;
- image analysis (segmentation, feature identification and registration, quantitative analysis);
- integrative analysis of transcriptomics, epigenomics and genomics data.
Single-cell analysis of human brain.
Human brain is arguably the most complex organ of the body. We are applying single-cell sequencing and imaging techniques to characterize the transcriptional diversity and somatic genomic variation of the human brain, and to related such -omics information to the three dimensional organization of the human cortex.
Recent advances in nuclear programming and reprogramming have provided extremely powerful tools for manipulating the cell fates. A holy grail of regenerative medicine is to restore damaged tissues or organs with another cell type from the same patients with the use of nuclear reprogramming and genetic engineering techniques. We are particularly interested in characterizing the process of cell fate conversion, understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms.
Genetic and environmental determinants for human common diseases.
Another very broad area of our research interest is to understand genetic and environmental factors that contribute to common human diseases. For genetic factors, we are focusing on cis-regulatory genetic variants in the human genome. On the environmental aspect, we are particularly interested in the microorganisms that reside in different parts of the human body, also called human microbiome. We are also working on the characterization of the epigenome, which is an important layer of cellular memory that captures the effects of both genetic and environmental factors.
Potential graduate student rotation projects:
- Design and fabrication of microfluidic devices for single cell analysis.
- Computational analysis of single-cell transcriptome data sets.
- Epigenetic analysis of human brain and stem cells.
- Live cell imaging and image analysis.