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MABE Distinguished Seminar: Assaf Gilad 

Title: From Seaside to Bedside: Bioengineering Proteins as Tools for Molecular Imaging


Medical imaging has transformed the clinical decision-making process by providing physicians with vital information through MRI, CT, and ultrasound scans. However, despite the benefits of these imaging modalities, there is a critical need to develop new and improved technologies that can monitor changes and abnormalities at the cellular, molecular, and functional levels. Assaf Gilad's research lab is at the forefront of the discipline of Molecular Imaging, which is a promising field positioned in the intersection of biomedical research and molecular biology. He focuses on creating, implementing, and developing cutting-edge protein engineering techniques to produce genetically encoded tools for Molecular Imaging. In this presentation, he will discuss his latest research findings and their contribution to Molecular Imaging.

Gilad will discuss the development of synthetic and semi-synthetic proteins that can generate contrast through Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (CEST)-MRI. He has recently developed new types of proteins that can be efficiently detected through MRI. To achieve this, he designed a novel machine-learning algorithm based on genetic programming that has allowed him to broaden the search space of peptides that can produce CEST MRI contrast. He then assembled these peptides into a functional protein that can be used as a reporter to track therapeutic cells and gene delivery vehicles in live systems. Gilad is constantly expanding his arsenal of such reporters by seeking and recombining proteins from various organisms. For example, he is evolving proteins and peptides that bind the lanthanide gadolinium to enhance imaging sensitivity as well as for cleaning medical waste. Another example discussed is a magneto-receptive gene cloned from the glass catfish (Kryptopterus vitreolus). This gene can function as a "biomagnetic switch" and can remotely control the activity of enzymes transduced in cells. Inspired by unique mechanisms found in marine organisms, he aims to develop the next generation of genetically encoded technologies to tackle urgent problems in the biomedical field.

Assaf A. Gilad is a Michigan State University Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Radiology Professor. The overarching theme of his research program is to utilize synthetic biology to develop new biomedical imaging technologies. Specifically, he works to develop novel genetically encoded and nanoparticle biosensors for brain imaging, neuromodulation, and cancer research. He received a BA from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, and an MS and PhD in biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science. He spent three years conducting postdoctoral research in the Department of Radiology at Johns Hopkins University. In 2007, he joined the radiology department at Johns Hopkins University as an assistant professor and later as an associate professor. In 2017, he moved to Michigan State University.

Tuesday, February 20 at 11:00am

Dougherty Engineering Building, 409
1512 Middle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations




Current Students, Faculty & Staff

Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering (MABE)
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