Brainmap: Engineering proteins for neuroimaging and neuromodulation- Assaf Gilad, PhD
The countless variations of protein sequences and structures, both natural and synthetic, open the possibility to exploit electromagnetic energy for developing new research tools. Capitalizing on the ability to tag specific protons with electromagnetic radiation, on well characterized proteins, we have designed a toolbox of non-metallic, genetically encoded reporters for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) both artificial (Gilad, Nature Biotechnology, 2007; Airan, Mag. Res. Med., 2012) and naturally occurring (Bar-Shir, ACS. Chem. Bio. 2014). By rational design we expanded this concept for developing imaging probes for the detection of specific enzymes (Liu, JACS, 2011, Bar-Shir, JACS 2013 and Nature protocols 2014), and drugs (Ngen, Mol. Pharm. 2016). We applied these reporters to resolve questions in a variety of animal models including brain cancer, cardiovascular disease and immunotherapy. Recently, together with Dr. Galit Pelled (from the Johns Hopkins University) we have identified a single gene that is responsive to electromagnetic fields (EMF). Now we have on hand a novel tool that can allow not only sensing magnetic field but also remotely control cellular activity with practical applications in neuromodulation and regenerative medicine as well as for creating synthetic biology devices.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Assaf Gilad is a biologist by training and an Associate Professor at the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences and the Institute for cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. The overarching theme of his research program harnesses the intersection of radiology and molecular biology to develop new in vivo imaging technologies that can be used to tackle fundamental biological questions. Specifically, he works to develop novel genetically encoded and nanoparticles biosensors for both MRI detection and neuromodulation. He received a B.A. (1996) from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, and M.Sc., (1999) and Ph.D. (2004) in Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel (advisor: Prof. Michal Neeman). He spent three years conducting postdoctoral research in the Department of Radiology at JHU (advisors: Profs. Peter van Zijl and Jeff Bulte). In 2007 he joined the Radiology department as a faculty member.