Treating patients with engineered cells may one day become as common as treating them with drugs is now. As therapeutic agents, cells are much more sophisticated than simple molecules: they can be engineered to migrate to sites of disease, sense their local environment, make logical decisions, multiply themselves, release therapeutic molecules, and self-destruct. However, there are no effective ways to monitor their location in the body or tell them where to perform their therapeutic functions.
During his May 23 Biedebach Memorial Lecture of the Watson Lecture series, Mikhail Shapiro—who is an assistant professor of chemical engineering and a Schlinger Scholar at Caltech as well as a Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator—will discuss solutions to this problem, including developing molecular "communications equipment" that will use methods such as ultrasound to remotely monitor cells' activity and give them commands deep inside the body.
Shapiro's group develops molecular technologies for noninvasive imaging and control of cellular function, and uses these technologies to study basic biology and create cellular diagnostics and therapeutics. By using various forms of energy—from magnetic to mechanical, thermal, and chemical—Shapiro and his colleagues pursue fundamental advances at the interface of molecular and cellular engineering and physics.
Shapiro received his bachelor's degree from Brown University in 2004 and his PhD from MIT in 2008. Shapiro became an assistant professor at Caltech in 2014.
Shapiro's Biedebach Memorial Lecture will be held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23, in Beckman Auditorium, and is a free event; no tickets or reservations are required.
Named for the late Caltech professor Earnest C. Watson, who founded the series in 1922, the Watson Lectures present Caltech and JPL researchers describing their work to the public. Many past Watson Lectures are available online at Caltech's YouTube site.