George Lu, assistant professor of bioengineering and CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research at Rice, has received a three-year grant from the G. Harold and Y. Leila Mathers Foundation to develop the use of acoustic reporter proteins and ultrasound to view specific cells within the body.
“Ultrasound can look at activities and gene expression inside cells,” said Lu, who directs the Laboratory for Synthetic Macromolecular Assemblies. “We hope to use genetic engineering to enable the visualization of these crucial pieces of information, especially for cell-based therapies.”
His lab focuses on studying a class of hollow gas-filled protein nanostructures called gas vesicles. As a postdoc, Lu was part of a group of researchers who discovered these protein nanostructures possess interesting acoustic properties and can be used as acoustic reporter genes. At Rice, he aims to develop a complete set of capabilities on this technology and incorporate it into cell-based therapeutics.
“To better use gas vesicles for cellular imaging and other biomedical applications, we need to understand how they are formed,” Lu said. “We hope our research will elucidate the biology behind these proteins and permit development of better technologies to visualize cellular activities directly in patients.”
Lu earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego in 2014. He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Mikhail Shapiro at the California Institute of Technology, before joining the Rice faculty in 2020.