Randall Platt is an Associate Professor of Biological Engineering at the ETH Zurich. Platt studied biomedical engineering at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In 2011 he obtained an MPhil from Imperial College London in material science and in 2016 a PhD from MIT in biological engineering. After a postdoctoral fellowship joint between MIT, Harvard University, and the Broad Institute he started his lab at ETH Zurich in 2016. Randy’s major aim is to develop genetic perturbation and cellular programming technologies for diagnostics and therapeutics primarily in the areas of brain science and gut microbiome.
The gut and its resident microbes are central to health and underlie many disorders of the intestine, immune system, brain, and other body systems. However, because we lack the tools to faithfully measure the gut, we do not fully understand how this organ orchestrates health. To overcome this challenge, Platt and his research team created transcriptional recording sentinel cells: engineered bacteria that record gene expression while safely passing through the intestine capturing characteristic signatures of health and disease. Sentinel cells were engineered with proteins from the microbial defense system CRISPR that allow them to capture snippets of bacterial RNA as historical records within an intracellular DNA storage medium. Sentinel cells function in the guts of animals – entering the mouth and traveling through the intestine before exiting the body for noninvasive sampling. Sentinel cells offer a new way to measure health and have immense potential for biomedical research, diagnosing disease, and making better medicines.