Molecular imaging of "invisible" biological processes
Our lab broadly focuses on developing molecular reporters to noninvasively look at biochemical activity and cellular targets in living systems. We take a special interest in imaging anaerobic microorganisms and vertebrate model animals. These two systems share the unique misfortune of being incompatible with the green fluorescent protein (GFP), the most widely used reporter for imaging biological processes at the molecular level. My lab engineers new classes of imaging tools that can penetrate deep tissues (by magnetic resonance or bioluminescence) or become fluorescent without oxygen (by binding to chromophores), thereby expanding the benefits of reporter gene imaging to probe biological processes "invisible" to GFP.
To accomplish our goals, we draw on a variety of tools from biochemistry, molecular biology, mammalian synthetic biology, protein engineering, viral gene delivery, gene editing techniques, pre-clinical animal models, computational modeling, fluorescence, bioluminescence, and magnetic resonance imaging modalities. In collaboration with basic scientists, we apply the molecular tools created in our lab to probe a variety of biological processes including neural signaling, bacterial infections, and tumor biology.