Editor's note: See our Director's Seminar webpage for upcoming speakers, topics, and videos of past lectures.
Jefferson Chan, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, will speak at the Beckman Institute's virtual Director's Seminar at noon Thursday, Oct. 14. Chan will be discussing "Design, Synthesis, and Application of Chemical Probes for in vivo Imaging of Disease Biomarkers." Registration is required to attend on Zoom.
Many disease states are characterized by molecular level changes that occur before detectable symptoms have begun to manifest. In order to maximize treatment outcomes, it is essential to accurately detect such alterations at an early stage. Chemical probes designed to selectively image such molecular processes have the potential to not only aid in disease diagnosis but can also provide unique insights into disease progression. As an important step toward these goals, Chan's lab developed a palette of activatable probes for photoacoustic imaging and applied these to visualize changes in the tumor microenvironment. The design approach employs the principles of activity-based sensing, which is distinct from traditional binding-based probes in that they leverage the unique chemical reactivity of an analyte for sensing. Depending on the intended application, it is possible to accelerate or attenuate reactivity to detect fleeting analytes or high abundance targets, respectively. Moreover, when coupled to a photoacoustic readout, molecular features that would otherwise be elusive can be visualized with high resolution within a native tissue environment.
In this regard, photoacoustic imaging is a state-of-the-art technique that generates ultrasound signals from light. Since sound scattering is three orders of magnitude less than light in tissue, photoacoustic imaging can be employed to image up to 12 cm in depth while achieving micron resolution. In this seminar, Chan will discuss the strategies employed to construct these specialized imaging probes, as well as highlight recent applications from the laboratory.
Chan received his B.Sc. degree in chemistry from the University of British Columbia in 2006 and his Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University (Prof. Andrew Bennet) in 2011. For his graduate research, he received the Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Doctoral Research Award for the top Canadian thesis in the areas of organic and bioorganic chemistry. From 2011-2014 he was a Human Frontiers Science Program Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley (Prof. Christopher Chang). In the fall of 2014, he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and currently holds the rank of associate professor.