In Search of Disease: Improved Medical Imaging
By combining nanotechnology with recent discoveries of disease biomarkers, a group led by Andrew Tsourkas, assistant professor in the Departments of Bioengineering and Radiology, is creating novel imaging agents that will detect disease at its very early stages.
This group is developing new ways to identify and locate a disease site before it can be found using current imaging methods. Specifically, they are developing imaging agents or ‘probes’ that can provide information about the expression of important biological molecules, e.g. RNA and protein, and enzymatic processes, such as protein phosphorylation and degradation. To accomplish this research, the lab is taking advantage of multiple imaging platforms including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), fluorescence, and bioluminescence.
Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is often considered a particularly attractive platform for molecular imaging applications, due to its ability to acquire high-resolution anatomical images in conjunction with measures of biomarker expression. However, a major obstacle that has been faced by MR is the relatively low sensitivity of MR contrast agents. In general, the number of cell receptors at a disease site is too often too low to recruit enough MR contrast agents to generate sufficient image contrast at an early stage of disease. However, by harnessing advances in nanotechnology to “tag” disease biomarkers, the Tsourkas lab has shown that sufficient contrast can be observed on MR scans. This is a major advancement over current technologies, facilitating early detection and the ability to monitor therapeutic efficacy.
Interested? Learn more!