Molecular Engineering Imaging and Control

We engineer biomolecules with unusual physical properties and use them to image and control biological function non-invasively, e.g. using magnetic fields and sound waves.

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  • Welcome to the Shapiro Lab at the California Institute of Technology.
  • Pasadena, California, USA.


Imaging and controlling cellular function with ultrasound.
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New molecules and mechanisms for genetically encoded MRI contrast.
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Biophysics of neuromodulation with ultrasound and other forms of energy.
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Multiplexed chemical control of the nervous system.
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Acoustically detonated biomolecules

Congratulations to Avinoam, Atousa and colleagues on their study showing that gas vesicles can be turned into cavitating free bubbles using low frequency ultrasound, enabling their use as molecularly targeted and genetically encoded “explosives”.

Bar-Zion A, Nourmahnad A, Mittelstein DR, Yoo S, Malounda D, Abedi MH, Lee-Gosselin A, Maresca D, Shapiro MG*. Acoustically detonated biomolecules for genetically encodable inertial cavitation.
bioRxiv preprint

Biomolecular contrast agents for OCT

Congratulations to George, Dina and our collaborators at OCT Medical and UCSD on developing the first biomolecular, genetically encodable contrast agents for for optical coherence tomography based on the optical properties of gas vesicles.

Lu GJ, Chou L, Malounda D, Patel AK, Welsbie DS, Chou DL*, Ramalingam T*, Shapiro MG*. Biomolecular contrast agents for optical coherence tomography Submitted. bioRxiv preprint

Mammalian expression of gas vesicles

Congratulations to Arash, Gabrielle, Danny and Ray on their study demonstrating the mammalian expression of gas vesicles. For the first time, ultrasound can be used to image gene expression in mammalian cells.

Farhadi A, Ho GH, Sawyer DP, Bourdeau RW, Shapiro MG*. Ultrasound imaging of gene expression in mammalian cells. Submitted. bioRxiv preprint

Shapiro Lab Holiday Party 2018

Thanks to all who joined to celebrate an amazing 2018 and welcome the new year! More photos.

X-waves for selective biomolecular ultrasound

Congratulations to David, Danny, Audrey and collaborators on their new ultrasound imaging scheme, which uses cross-propagating sound waves to obtain maximal specificity for imaging non-linear contrast agents such as gas vesicles.

Maresca D#*, Sawyer DP#, Renaud G, Lee-Gosselin A, Shapiro MG*. Nonlinear X-wave ultrasound imaging of acoustic biomolecules. Physical Review X 8, 041002 (2018).
article | synopsis

Fifth Annual Shapiro Lab Beach Party

Shapiro Lab Beach Party #5! Oceanside, California. Thanks to all who came!

Engineering ultraparamagnetic cells

Congratulations to Pradeep, Sonjong, Hunter, Audrey, Vivek, Max, Jenny and Vasant on their new work showing that strong cellular paramagnetism is sufficient for magnetic manipulation and MRI contrast. Their genetic circuit makes bacteria “ultraparamagnetic” by oxidizing and chelating iron in a ferrogel.

Ramesh P, Hwang SJ, Davis HC, Lee-Gosselin A, Bharadwaj V, English MA, Sheng J, Iyer V, Shapiro MG*. Ultraparamagnetic cells formed through intracellular oxidation and chelation of paramagnetic iron. Angewandte Chemie 57, 12385-12389 (2018). article

Acoustically Targeted Chemogenetics (ATAC)

Congratulations to Jerzy, Brian, Audrey and Dina on developing a new technology to modulate specific parts of the brain non-invasively with a combination of spatial, genetic and temporal control using ultrasound, gene delivery and small molecule drugs – featured on the cover of Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Szablowski JO, Lue B, Lee-Gosselin A, Malounda D, Shapiro MG*. Acoustically targeted chemogenetics for the non-invasive control of neural circuits. Nature Biomedical Engineering 2, 474-484 (2018).
article | readcube | news and views | press | behind the paper

Auditory effects of ultrasonic neuromodulation

Two new articles in Neuron from Caltech (with Tomo Sato and Doris Tsao) and the University of Minnesota (led by Hongsun Guo and Hubert Lim) describe a major effect of focused ultrasound on neural circuits. Congratulations to both teams on this important step towards making focused ultrasound a mature, well-controlled tool for neuroscience.
Sato T*, Shapiro MG#*, Tsao DY#*. Ultrasonic neuromodulation causes widespread cortical activation via an indirect auditory mechanism. Neuron (2018). article | companion article

Acoustically modulated MRI

Congratulations to George, Arash, Jerzy, Audrey and colleagues on their work introducing the concept of acoustically modulated MRI contrast agents, which address one of major limitations of MRI by taking advantage of the special magnetic and acoustic properties of gas vesicles – featured on the cover of Nature Materials.

Lu GJ, Farhadi A, Szablowski JO, Lee Gosselin A, Barnes SR, Lakshmanan A, Bourdeau RW, Shapiro MG*. Acoustically modulated magnetic resonance imaging of gas-filled protein nanostructures. Nature Materials (2018).
article | readcube | news and views | press | behind the paper