Research Groups

Energetics of Biological Systems

For further information also visit the homepage of Jonathan Rodenfels:

Living biological systems are metabolically active, open systems that constantly exchange matter and energy with their environment. They function out of thermodynamic equilibrium and continuously use metabolic pathways to obtain energy from chemical bonds derived from nutrients to fulfill the systems energetic requirements to stay alive, grow, and develop.

Although work over the last decades has highlighted the principle(s) of how metabolism allows cells to proliferate at the level of biochemical networks within cells, the general framework for the energetic principles that maintain and govern cellular states remains poorly defined. How much energy does a cell require to stay alive and maintain a non-equilibrium state? An organism? How much more energy does that organism need to grow and develop? How much energy is required for various cellular processes and how efficiently is it used? What are the energetic changes associated with different environmental and pathological conditions?

We are interested in studying these crucial aspects of biological systems using a combination of experimental model systems (zebrafish, frog, egg extracts and tissue culture cells) and biochemical, biophysical, genetic, molecular biology and imaging approaches that bridge the intersection between cell/developmental biology and biophysics.

Some current and future work includes:

  • Develop calorimetry approaches to quantify the overall energetics of biological systems
  • Determine how energetics drive embryonic development and cell growth
  • Study the role of mitochondrial energetics and cell biology during early zebrafish development
  • Elucidate the role of energy dissipation on the accuracy and reproducibility of cellular signaling