Biomedical Imaging and Diagnostics
Several bioengineering faculty members conduct research in translational molecular cancer imaging and diagnostics. These efforts are focused on the development of novel, nanoscale contrast agents for molecular imaging as well as the development of hardware systems to image and monitor cancers and other disease processes in vivo in real time.
Our efforts leverage the department’s unique capabilities in nanobiotechnology with the basic science and translational strengths of the Texas Medical Center, in particular The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Progress toward a molecular characterization of cancer would have important clinical benefits, including: (1) detecting cancer earlier based on molecular characterization, (2) predicting the risk of precancerous lesion progression, (3) detecting margins in the operating room in real time, (4) selecting molecular therapy rationally and (5) monitoring response to therapy in real time at the molecular level. Contrast agents under investigation include, metallic nanoparticles, quantum dots, and molecular beacons. This research integrates novel approaches in drug delivery to image intracellular targets as well as novel molecular engineering approaches to develop high affinity contrast agents. At the same time, we are developing inexpensive, portable optical systems to image the morphologic and molecular signatures of neoplasia noninvasively in real time. Using advances in microfabrication and MEMS technology, these systems can assess both native optical contrast as well as that afforded by optically active contrast agents. These real-time, portable, inexpensive systems can provide tools to characterize the molecular features of cancer in vivo.
Researchers in the Rice Department of Bioengineering that are involved in this field include: