Experimental quantum biology in a living system

A major question in quantum biology is how life maintains, or even manipulates, the reversibility of quantum laws in highly complex living cells where decoherence would be expected to be almost instantaneous. In this research theme we will explore this question experimentally and determine whether life does indeed manipulate the emergence of irreversibility, decoherence, to optimise function in living cells.

In addition, we hope to unveil some of the quantum strategies at play in biological samples that make them resilient to decohering noise since these strategies seem to work – for a short time but to a high degree of accuracy – in wet, hot environments.

Research aims

We will investigate the exciting hypothesis that the reversibility of quantum processes in biology may be manipulated by magnetic fields to, for example, promote health. We will conduct experiments using green fluorescent protein (GFP), originally discovered in jellyfish, as a beacon of quantum and spin coherence in biology. GFP can be detected in individual biomolecules, thereby allowing the study of quantum events normally obscured in large numbers of randomly orientated moving and vibrating biomolecules.

The activity will draw on the expertise of Dr Youngchan Kim who has recently demonstrated that quantum coherence – and hence the reversibility of the arrow of time – can be maintained between fluorescent proteins when they are close together.

In addition to examining the impact of amino acid mutations on coherence of GFP, we also aim, for the first time, to unveil the relationship between quantum coherence and spin coherence, and investigate quantum coherence in GFP in live E. coli cells.


  • Kim, Y et al., Quantum Biology: An Update and Perspective, Quantum Reports 3, 80 (2021)
  • McFadden, J.; Al-Khalili, J., The origins of quantum biology, Proc. Royal Soc. A474 20180674 (2018)
  • Al-Khalili, J.S. and McFadden, J., Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, Transworld (Bantam Press), London (2014)
  • Aiello, C.D.; Hirose, M.; Cappellaro, P., Composite-pulse magnetometry with a solid-state quantum sensor. Nature comms. 4, 1-6 (2013).

Meet the team


Clarice Aiello

Professor Clarice Aiello

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Catxere Casacio profile image

Dr Catxere Andrade Casacio

Research Fellow in Experimental Quantum Biology

Youngchan Kim profile image

Dr Youngchan Kim

University of Surrey

Alejandro Sanchez-Pedreno Jimenez profile image

Alejandro Sanchez-Pedreno Jimenez

Postgraduate Research Student