Going Deeper

We develop technologies to image and control the function of cells deep inside the body. These technologies take advantage of biomolecules with unusual physical properties allowing them to interact with sound waves and magnetic fields. We apply these tools to problems in synthetic biology, neuroscience, cancer, immunology and the mammalian microbiome.

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

    Welcome to the Shapiro Lab at the California Institute of Technology.

  • Pasadena, California, USA.

    Pasadena, California, USA.



Imaging and controlling cellular function with ultrasound.
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New molecules and mechanisms for MR imaging and magnetic actuation.
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Biophysics of neuromodulation with ultrasound and other forms of energy.
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Spatially, molecularly and temporally precise control of neural circuits.
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Fun in the sun 2022

Thanks to all the lab members, collaborators and friends who joined us for the annual Shapiro Lab beach party in Oceanside, CA! Extra fun to be joined by Moore Scholar Mickael Tanter.

CryoEM Structure of Gas Vesicles

How do you make a protein that self-assembles, fills with air, excludes water and withstands several atmospheres of pressure? A century-old mystery for Gas Vesicles. Congratulations to Przemek and colleagues in the Shapiro and Jensen labs on figuring this out with a beautiful CryoET structure.

Dutka P, Metskas LA, Hurt RA, Salahshoor H, Wang TY, Malounda D, Lu GJ, Chou TS, Shapiro MG*, Jensen GJ*. Structure of Anabaena flos-aquae gas vesicles revealed by cryo-ET. bioRxiv

Lab excursion to Catalina Island

Thanks to the intrepid explorers who joined the Shapiro Lab expedition to Catalina Island!

Ultrasound-controlled probiotic therapy

Can we activate the production of immunotherapy drugs specifically inside solid tumors? Yes, by engineering gene circuits in tumor-homing bacteria to take commands from thermal focused ultrasound. Congratulations to Mohamad, Michael and collaborators on this new paper demonstrating the local delivery of checkpoint inhibitors inside solid by ultrasound-controlled probiotic agents.

Abedi MH#, Yao M#, Mittelstein DR, Bar-Zion A, Swift MB, Lee-Gosselin A, Barturen-Larrea P, Buss MT, Shapiro MG*. Ultrasound-controllable engineered bacteria for cancer immunotherapyNature Communications 13, 1585 (2022). article | press

How does ultrasound excite neurons?

Focused ultrasound excites cortical neurons by opening specific mechanosensitive ion channels, leading to gradual calcium accumulation, activation of calcium-gated channels, depolarization and spiking. Congratulations to Sangjin and collaborators on this detailed biophysical study.

Yoo S, Mittelstein DR, Hurt RC, Lacroix JJ, Shapiro MG*. Focused ultrasound excites cortical neurons via mechanosensitive calcium accumulation and ion channel amplification. Nature Communications 13, 493 (2022). article

Joining HHMI!

HHMI Logo & Guidelines | HHMI Thank you to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for welcoming our group and supporting our vision of biomolecular ultrasound as an emerging technology for basic biology and medicine. press

“Blowing up” tumors from the inside

Congratulations to Avinoam and colleagues on showing that cells can be engineered to migrate into tumors and damage them from the inside upon receiving a focused ultrasound stimulus. Their new paper establishes gas vesicles as genetically encoded seeds for inertial cavitation, bringing together cellular and physical therapy.

Bar-Zion A, Nourmahnad A, Mittelstein DR, Shivaei S, Yoo S, Buss MT, Hurt RC, Malounda D, Abedi MH, Lee-Gosselin A, Swift MB, Maresca D, Shapiro MG*. Acoustically triggered mechanotherapy using genetically encoded gas vesicles. Nature Nanotechnology 16, 1403–1412 (2021). article | readcube

Ultrasensitive imaging of gene expression

Can ultrasound detect gene expression in single cells? Congratulations to Danny, Avinoam, Arash, Shirin, Bill and Audrey on developing BURST – a new ultrasensitive imaging method that takes advantage of the unique properties of gas vesicle reporter genes to greatly improve the sensitivity of cellular ultrasound and enable the detection of individual cells.

Sawyer DP, Bar-Zion A, Farhadi A, Shivaei S, Ling B, Lee-Gosselin A, Shapiro MG*. Ultrasensitive ultrasound imaging of gene expression with signal unmixing. Nature Methods 18, 945-952 (2021). article | readcube | press

Shapiro Lab annual beach party 2021

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the annual Shapiro Lab beach party at Hermosa Beach, CA. Awesome to be together again in the sun!

Supramolecular assembly of gas vesicles

Congratulations to Yuxing, Zhiyang, Bill and Dina on uncovering the biophysics of gas vesicle self-assembly, a process leading to beautiful nanoscale arrangements inside and outside cells.

Yao Y, Jin Z, Ling B, Malounda D, Shapiro MG*. Self-assembly of protein superstructures by physical interactions under cytoplasm-like conditions. Biophysical Journal 120, 2701-2709 (2021). article