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.
  • 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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Imaging the function of liver macrophages

Congratulations to Bill, Justin, David, Audrey, Dina and Margaret on their new study using systemically injected gas vesicles to non-invasively quantify both phagocytosis and lysosomal function in liver disease. This work represents the first diagnostic application of biomolecular ultrasound.

Ling B, Lee J, Maresca D, Lee-Gosselin A, Malounda D, Swift MB, Shapiro MG*. Biomolecular ultrasound imaging of phagolysosomal function. ACS Nano 14, 12210-12221 (2020). article

Acoustic biosensors of enzyme activity

Congratulations to Anu, Zhiyang, Suchita and colleagues on their new paper in Nature Chemical Biology describing the first acoustic biosensors. These biosensors turn on nonlinear ultrasound contrast in response to protease activity. This allows the action of enzymes such as TEV, Calpain and ClpXP to be visualized in cells deep inside the body.

Lakshmanan A#, Jin Z#, Nety SP, Sawyer DP, Lee-Gosselin A, Malounda D, Swift MB, Maresca D, Shapiro MG*. Acoustic biosensors for ultrasound imaging of enzyme activity. Nature Chemical Biology 16, 988-986 (2020).
article | readcube | behind the paper | press

Thermal control of engineered T-cells

Congratulations to Mohamad, Justin and Dan on their new paper in ACS Synthetic Biology describing genetic circuits allowing engineered T-cell immunotherapies to be controlled with temperature. Their work creates the possibility of controlling T-cells inside the body with brief pulses of heat delivered by focused ultrasound, magnetic hyperthermia or infrared light.

Abedi MH, Lee J, Piraner DI, Shapiro MG*. Thermal control of engineered T-cells. ACS Synthetic Biology 9, 1941-50 (2020). article | bioRxiv preprint

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!