Treating patients with engineered cells may one day become as common as it is now to be treated with drugs. As therapeutic agents, cells have much greater sophistication than simple molecules: they can be engineered to migrate to sites of disease such as tumors, sense their local environment, make logical decisions, multiply themselves, release therapeutic molecules and self-destruct.
However, cell therapy today is a risky proposition. Once the engineered cells enter your body, there is no effective way to monitor their location, see what they are doing, or give them further instructions.
To solve this problem, we are developing molecular "communications equipment" that allows us to use methods such as ultrasound to remotely monitor cells' activity and give them commands deep inside the body.
Mikhail G. Shapiro is Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering andHeritage Medical Research Institute Investigator at Caltech, in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. More information.
Location: Beckman Auditorium Caltech
Audience: General public