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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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

Ultrafast biomolecular ultrasound

Congratulations to Claire, Di, Bill, Zhiyang and Dina on developing ultrafast amplitude modulation (uAM), a new method to acquire biomolecular ultrasound images in a fraction of a millisecond, with simultaneous imaging of blood flow.

Rabut C, Wu D, Ling B, Jin Z, Malounda D, Shapiro MG*. Ultrafast amplitude modulation for molecular and hemodynamic ultrasound imaging. Applied Physics Letters 118, 244102 (2021). article | bioRxiv preprint

Magnetically-enhanced GI colonization

Congratulations to Marjorie, Pradeep and colleagues on their new paper in Advanced Materials describing the use of magnetic fields to help probiotic agents localize and colonize within the mammalian gastrointestinal tract. This technology can help bacterial therapies find and establish themselves in their niche without disruptive antibiotics.

Buss MT#, Ramesh P#, English MA, Lee-Gosselin A, Shapiro MG*. Spatial control of probiotic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract assisted by magnetic particles. Advanced Materials 33, 2007473 (2021).

Ultrasound-actuated bacterial immunotherapy

Congratulations to Mohamad, Michael and colleagues on their new study describing the development of ultrasound-controlled bacterial immunotherapy for solid tumors. This work increases the specificity and safety of an important class of emerging therapeutics by combining gene circuit engineering with ultrasound physics.
Abedi MH#, Yao M#, Mittelstein DR, Bar-Zion A, Swift MB, Lee-Gosselin A, Shapiro MG*. Acoustic remote control of bacterial immunotherapy. bioRxiv preprint

Ultrasonic brain-machine interfaces

Congratulations to Sumner, David, Vasileios and colleagues on their new paper describing the use of functional ultrasound imaging to decode movement intentions. This work represents a critical first step towards minimally invasive, ultrasound-based brain-machine interfaces. Thanks to wonderful collaborators Richard Andersen and Mickaël Tanter.

Norman SL#, Maresca D#, Christopoulos VN#, Griggs WS, Demene C, Tanter M, Shapiro MG*, Andersen RA*. Single-trial decoding of movement intentions using functional ultrasound neuroimaging. Neuron 109, 1554-1566 (2021). article | press

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