A Presentation by Michael Levin
A remarkable fact about living bodies is that cells communicate during embryogenesis and regeneration to enable them to work together toward the construction and repair of complex anatomical structures. My lab has uncovered a powerful new component of that communication: endogenous bioelectrical signaling among all cells (not just neurons) that enables the computations required to make decisions about large-scale growth and form. We have developed novel techniques to re-write the pattern memories that control gene expression and morphogenesis, with numerous applications for birth defects, regeneration of injured organs, cancer reprogramming, and synthetic bioengineering of novel living machines. In this talk, I will describe the emerging science at the intersection of developmental biophysics, basal cognition, and regenerative medicine. The development of new tools, together with conceptual advances that link computer science, cognitive science, and molecular genetics, are revealing exciting new vistas for many fields, from bioengineering to artificial intelligence.
As usual, the talk is free.
Door: 6:00pm / Talk: 6:30pm
April 03, 2019
Michael Levin, a professor in the Biology department at Tufts, holds the Vannevar Bush endowed Chair and serves as director of the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. Recent honors include the Scientist of Vision award and the Distinguished Scholar Award. His group’s focus is on understanding the biophysical mechanisms that implement decision-making during complex pattern regulation, and harnessing endogenous bioelectric dynamics toward rational control of growth and form. The lab’s current main directions are:
• Understanding how somatic cells form bioelectrical networks for storing and recalling pattern memories that guide morphogenesis;
• Creating next-generation AI tools for helping scientists understand top-down control of pattern regulation (a new bioinformatics of shape); and
• Using these insights to enable new capabilities in regenerative medicine and engineering.
Prior to college, Michael Levin worked as a software engineer and independent contractor in the field of scientific computing. He attended Tufts University, interested in artificial intelligence and unconventional computation. To explore the algorithms by which the biological world implemented complex adaptive behavior, he got dual B.S. degrees, in CS and in Biology and then received a PhD from Harvard University. He did post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School (1996-2000), where he began to uncover a new bioelectric language by which cells coordinate their activity during embryogenesis. His independent laboratory (2000-2007 at Forsyth Institute, Harvard; 2008-present at Tufts University) develops new molecular-genetic and conceptual tools to probe large-scale information processing in regeneration, embryogenesis, and cancer suppression.
At the Wyss Institute, he will be collaborating with Donald Ingber and James Collins on a program focused on development of a highly multiplexed, microfluidic, Xenopus embryo culture system that will enable discovery of new drug targets and development of therapeutics when combined with multi-omics and an integrated bioinformatics pipeline. The team’s initial focus is on development of therapeutics that enhance host tolerance to infections, as part of a DARPA-funded THoR research program.