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Simon Titmuss

Dr Simon Titmuss

Dr Simon Titmuss

Research Fellow

Grants awarded

Uncovering buried biological interfaces: cell membranes and viruses

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Organisation: University of Edinburgh

Dates: Oct 2008-Sep 2011

Value: £299,416

Summary: There are many situations in nature and in consumer products in which the interface between a solid and a liquid or between two liquids determines the behavior. Drug molecules have to be delivered from the bloodstream into target cells by crossing the cell membrane; viruses have to make the same journey, whether they are causing infection or being used to treat disease through Gene Therapy; emulsions of oil in water (or water in oil) are found in many food and personal care products. The interfaces in these systems involve nanoparticles, polymers, detergents and fat molecules. We use the reflection and scattering of neutrons and x-rays to study these components at interfaces that are relevant to drug delivery, detergency and to understanding the way in which viruses function. Neutrons and x-rays bounce off flat interfaces in the same way that light reflects off a pond. If a thin film of oil covers the pond, interference colours are seen. We use the same effect with neutrons to measure the thickness of films comparable to 1-1000 diameters of a water molecule. Viruses comprise a core of genetic material surrounded by a thin shell made of protein building blocks, that resemble the hexagonal and pentagonal patches of a soccer ball. We will use the scattering of X-rays to examine how the packing of the DNA in the core of genetic material changes as it is ejected from a class of virus that infects bacteria. We think that an important factor in determing how viruses are constructed and function is the relative motion of the protein patches in the fluctuating protein shell. We are setting out to measure this using a very sensitive measurement of the change in speed of neutrons that have been scattered from the shell. By understanding what determines how viruses are constructed, fall apart and packaged with genetic material we hope to help in the development of anti-viral drugs and the use of viruses as delivery vehicles for DNA vaccines and gene therapy.

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Organisation: University of Oxford

Dates: Oct 2003-Sep 2008

Value: £253,288.60

Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.

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