Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Mikhail Shapiro has been awarded the Roger Tsien Award for Excellence in Chemical Biology by the World Molecular Imaging Society (WMIS). As this year's awardee, Shapiro, who is also a Heritage Medical Research Institute (HMRI) investigator, receives one year of honorary membership in WMIS and is invited to deliver the closing ceremony lecture at the World Molecular Imaging Conference September 15.
The award is named in honor of Nobel laureate Roger Tsien, who pioneered the use of fluorescent proteins for molecular imaging.
Shapiro's laboratory group researches methods for noninvasively imaging and manipulating cells deep inside the body, using tools such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Inspired by natural structures produced by bacteria, he and his group designed gas-containing protein nanostructures that reflect ultrasound waves for use in medical imagery. In collaboration with Azita Emami, the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering and an HMRI investigator, Shapiro also demonstrated how tiny medical devices called "smart pills" can be located in the body using MRI.
More recently, the Shapiro group demonstrated that a technological trinity of ultrasound, gene therapy, and synthetic drugs can be used to flip neural switches in the brain without invasive surgery. Using this technique, the Shapiro group was able to selectively inhibit the neurons responsible for memory formation in mice. In the future, a similar method could be applied for noninvasive treatment of brain disorders like epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.