Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Richard Wong

Project Title: CLIMB: Cornell's Learning Initiative in Medicine and Bioengineering
Thesis: Construction and Quantification of Targeted and Untargeted MR Contrast Agents
College/University: Cornell University
Research Advisor: Moonsoo Jin, Yi Wang
Degree Sought: Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering
Department: Biomedical Engineering
Research Focus: Quantitative molecular imaging techniques for use in MRI
Teaching Partner(s): Sydney Mendez

Description of Research

MR imaging uses powerful magnetic and radio frequency fields to align, alter, and observe the nuclear magnetization of hydrogen atoms in the water of the body. Due to the varying nature of these magnetic properties across the spectrum of tissue and other material found in the body, it becomes possible to generate images by exploiting this differential; contrast in the resulting images reflects this difference and provide a relative measure by which tissue types can be distinguished. To further increase the contrast between tissue types, various types of contrast agents may be used to alter the magnetism in a localized area. Materials such as gadolinium and iron oxide can be used to alter the magnetic properties of the surrounding water. Used in conjunction with strategies to localize these contrast agents in specific areas of interest and imaging sequences designed to fully maximize the differences induced by these contrast agents, contrast agents can be used as probes to selectively highlight structures and phenomena indicative of a variety of biological conditions. My research explores two distinct strategies with respect to the delivery of contrast agents: untargeted and targeted SPIOs. First, untargeted SPIOs will be evaluated for use as an indicator for the onset and progression of sepsis. Containing no inherent specificity towards any antigen or receptor within the body, these SPIOs are typically uptaken by immune system-related cells and eliminated from the body; as this uptake behavior is theorized to be affected by systemic conditions such as sepsis, correlating this behavior with the progression of sepsis can offer insight into the onset of this condition. Second, the delivery of contrast agents will be enhanced with the addition of targeting proteins aimed at giving the contrast agents specificity and selectivity against cellular targets indicative of sepsis or cancer. This approach will include the use of a monoclonal antibody specific against Tissue Factor, for use in both sepsis and cancer-related imaging, and a T-cell receptor specific against peptide p53, for use as a generalized cancer detection agent.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

My goal is to give students a greater understanding of the scientific basis behind many of the techniques found in criminal forensic labs around the world.