The Airan Lab is centered on developing novel noninvasive techniques to precisely deliver drugs to the brain, to mediate more precise control of neural activity, in addition to other therapeutic effects. We are principally focused on techniques that have an immediate pathway for clinical translation. Currently, we primarily use focused ultrasound to mediate these effects, given recent advances that allow us to place a sonication focus within most any brain region of interest, completely noninvasively, and with high spatial and temporal resolution.
My lab focuses on the use of chemical probes to inhibit and image hydrolases to study their functions in human diseases. Our primary focus areas are cancer and infectious diseases. Currently, we have projects to develop fluorescent probes for cancer proteases for applications to fluorescence-guided surgery as well as projects to image hydrolase targets in bacteria for detection of biofilms and sites of infection in disease conditions such as endocarditis.
Dr. Wu received his MD from Yale University School of Medicine. He trained in internal medicine and cardiology at UCLA followed by a PhD in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. His clinical interests involve cardiovascular imaging and adult congenital heart disease. Dr. Wu has published >300 manuscripts. His lab works on biological mechanisms of patient-specific and disease-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The main goals are for (i) understanding basic cardiovascular disease mechanisms, (ii) accelerate drug discovery and screening, and (iii) develop personalized medicine and ìclinical trial in a dishî platforms. His lab uses a combination of genomics, stem cells, cellular & molecular biology, physiological testing, and molecular imaging technologies to better understand molecular and pathophysiological processes.
This laboratory is currently focusing on three major areas of research: 1) rapid detection and imaging of bacterial infection, especially antibiotics-resistant bacteria and mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), 2) understanding and imaging tumor response to treatment, and 3) imaging-guided tumor resection. Towards these goals, we are developing new molecular probes and imaging strategies to image and interrogate a broad range of molecular targets, from enzymes like hydrolases (beta-lactamases), proteases (such as caspases and MMPs), DNA polymerases (PARP-1), to reactive oxygen species (ROS). We also exploring nanoparticles and developing nanotechnologies in order to improve the sensitivity and specificity of detection and imaging. Through innovation in probe chemistry and nanotechnology, we strive to provide new solutions to these important problems in global health, cancer biology and therapy.
Developing novel imaging assays for studying cellular signal transduction networks in living animals;
Imaging the role of epigenetic histone methylation in the pathogenesis and therapeutic interventions of cancers;
Ultrasound-microbubble mediated imaging of guided targeted drug and antisense-microRNAs delivery that functionally alters cellular homeostasis, thereby enhancing response to chemotherapy for clinically difficult aggressive and metastatic triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), and for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma;
Understanding the role of cancers antioxidant chemopreventive mechanism to improve therapeutic efficiency by overcoming the drug resistance facilitated by Nrf2-mediated phase II enzymes;
Developing multifunctional gene therapy system to improve TNBC therapy.
This laboratory aims to build imaging instrumentation and chemical tools that can visualize the complex behavior of biomolecules in living subjects. The expression patterns of many biomolecules (e.g.: signaling factors and posttranslational modifications) changes in time, space and local environments. Understanding these changes in the context of living tissues may give rise to new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, and can further reveal new molecular mechanisms not otherwise visible in traditional biochemical studies. We have pioneered Photoacoustic molecular imaging and are actively developing new optical imaging instrumentation to visualize these complex behaviors in cancer and ophthalmic disease animal models. Our research efforts span both basic science and clinically translatable work.
We are currently investigating the developmental programming of beta cells within pancreatic islets to understand the fetal origins of diabetes and the intrauterine programming of these cells using novel anatomical and functional imaging techniques. As the physiology and associated pathology of islets are better understood, we hope to be able to translate our basic science findings into the clinical setting in relation to beta cell transplantation using minimally invasive techniques with image guidance.
The second arm of our research is on pancreatic cancer, especially with respect to developing and translating novel molecular guided therapies using minimally invasive image-guided techniques. One area which we are focusing on is the development of new nanoparticle platforms, for both imaging and therapy, and the delivery of these platforms into different experimental models of pancreatic cancer.
The Thakor Lab is also interested in developing and translating new bio-sensing technologies which can offer "Precision Medicine" to both pediatric and adult patients.
Our NIH-funded team of basic science researchers and physician scientists develops novel imaging solutions for pediatric patients with the goal to tackle significant problems encountered in clinical practice. We have extensive expertise in pre-clinical development and clinical translation of novel imaging technologies at the intersection of cell biology, nanomedicine and medical imaging: We developed “one stop” imaging tests for pediatric cancer staging, theranostic nanoparticles for cancer therapy without side effects, and patented techniques for stem cell tracking in patients. We recently initiated a collaborative program with 20 faculty from 9 Departments, who develop an imaging test for prediction and early treatment of tissue injuries after chemotherapy (PREDICT). Over the past 10 years, our team members received 77 honors and awards.
My laboratory is developing imaging assays to monitor fundamental cellular/molecular events in living subjects including patients. Technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET), optical (fluorescence, bioluminescence, Raman), ultrasound, and photoacoustic imaging are all under active investigation.
Imaging agents for multiple modalities including small molecules, engineered proteins, and nanoparticles are under development and being clinically translated. Our goals are to detect cancer early and to better manage cancer through the use of both in vitro diagnostics and molecular imaging. Strategies are being tested in small animal models and are also being clinically translated.