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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Shapiro Lab holiday party 2019

Thanks to everyone who joined us to celebrate the holiday season, toast to an exciting and fulfilling 2020 and squeeze into a selfe!

Ultrasound imaging of gene expression in mammalian cells

Congratulations to Arash, Gabrielle, Danny and Ray on their new paper in Science describing 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. Science 365, 1469 (2019). article | perspective | news

Thermal control of protein association

Congratulations to Dan and Echo on their publication describing modular protein domains with sharp, tunable, temperature-dependent heterodimerization. Fusing these domains with other proteins provides control over their association and localization using temperature, which can be delivered globally and locally using methods such as focused ultrasound and magnetic hyperthermia.

Piraner DI, Wu Y, Shapiro MG*. Modular thermal control of protein dimerization. ACS Synthetic Biology 8, 2256-2262 (2019). article

Shapiro Lab summer retreat 2019

Thanks to all the lab members, alumni and friends who joined us for the Shapiro Lab summer retreat in Temecula, CA.

Biomolecular enhancers for fUS

Congratulations to David, Audrey, Bill, Dina and collaborators in Paris on demonstrating enhanced non-invasive imaging of neural activity in mice using intravascular gas vesicles as boosters of hemodynamic functional ultrasound contrast.

Maresca D, Payen T, Lee-Gosselin A, Ling B, Malounda D, Demene C, Tanter M, Shapiro MG*. Acoustic biomolecules enhance hemodynamic functional ultrasound imaging of neural activity. NeuroImage (2019). article

Acoustic manipulation of engineered cells

Congratulations to Di, Diego, Dina, David and collaborators on their discovery that genetically engineered cells encoding gas vesicles can be trapped, patterned and made to dance (video) with ultrasound standing waves.

Wu D, Baresch D, Cook C, Malounda D, Maresca D, Abundo MP, Mittelstein DR, Shapiro MG*. Genetically encoded nanostructures enable acoustic manipulation of engineered cells. bioRxiv preprint

Drs. Ramesh, Piraner and Lakshmanan

Congratulations to Dr. Pradeep Ramesh, Dr. Dan Piraner and Dr. Anupama Lakshmanan on getting their PhDs in Bioengineering, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and Bioengineering, respectively, at Caltech’s 2019 Commencement! And a special congratulations to Dr. Lakshmanan on her Clauser Doctoral Prize for the best PhD thesis at Caltech!

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

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