Future Molecular Imaging

Event Dates:

3:00 pm Wednesday 9th Oct 2024

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Amnon Bar-Shir


Prof. Amnon Bar-Shir was born and raised in Israel. He earned his B.Sc. (2002) and M.Sc. in chemistry from Tel Aviv University (2004, under Prof. Michael Gozin). His Ph.D. also from Tel Aviv University (2009, under Prof. Yoram Cohen) focused on advanced diffusion NMR and MRI to study the structure and function of the central nervous system. As a postdoc at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine under Prof. Assaf Gilad he developed genetically engineered reporters for MRI.

In 2014 he joined the Weizmann Institute, where he created new kinds of biosensors for MRI applications. His lab uses synthetic chemistry, nanofabrication, and protein engineering to generate novel molecular formulations, such as small molecules, nanocrystals, supramolecular assemblies and proteins, as MRI sensors of high sensitivity, specificity, and orthogonality.

Prof. Bar-Shir won multiple research grants, including the two European Research Council starting grants (ERC-StG and ERC-CoG) of the EU, two individual Israel Science Foundation (ISF) grants, an US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) grant, Minerva individual grant, and the Israel Precision Medicine Program (IPMP) of the ISF (collaborative grant).

His academic and professional honors include: The 2021 Israel Chemical Society (ICS) Excellent Young Scientist Prize; a 2019 Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research; a visiting scholarship (2017) at CNRS in Orléans, France; the 2014 NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00, withdrawn due to his return to Israel) the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) 2014 Junior Fellowship and the 2009 Israel Chemical Society (ICS) Prize for excellent graduate students.



The complexity of biological processes, as well as their tightly controlled regulation, attracts researchers from a wide range of scientific fields. Such multiplexity is apparent in almost every aspect of life, in health and disease, from enzymatic activity to protein-protein interactions, from metal ion homeostasis to cell function, from gene expression to neuronal activity, or from gene networks to disease onsets and therapeutics mechanisms. Although our accumulated knowledge can shed light on many aspects of these processes, many still need to be discovered, are unknown, or cannot be studied in an intact live organism. MRI, with its unlimited tissue penetration capabilities and ability to combine information from biological targets with high-resolution anatomical images, has been transformed into a valuable imaging technology for molecular and cellular imaging. Moreover, the versatility of MRI contrast mechanisms, ranging from water relaxation to chemical exchange, and the variability in imaging probe identities (including non-1H tracers), as well as their stability and long shelf lives, create numerous possibilities for the design of MRI sensors. Such versatility provides capabilities for imaging probe designs of various types (small molecules, polymers, proteins, or nanoparticles), for various targets, and for multiplexed imaging by exploiting the chemical shift encodability of several types of MRI. In this talk, I will summarize our recent work on the development and implementation of novel molecular formulations (small molecules, nanocrystals, supramolecular assemblies, and proteins) for in vivo molecular and cellular MR imaging. These molecular probes extend the MRI toolbox with features that have thus far been inaccessible. Importantly, the paradigms used to develop the formulations presented here lay the foundation for further designs and should allow a better understanding of unexplored biological phenomena.


1. To describe how MRI, which is used for anatomical imaging, can also be used for molecular imaging.
2. To describe how different molecular probes of various types (small molecules, nanoparticles, and proteins) can be used for molecular MR imaging.
3. To describe the basic principles of “multicolor” MRI and demonstrate different applications in imaging inflammation and reporter genes expression.


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"Our responsibility is, to the extent of our view into the future, to form the present felicitous for the next generation according to the best of our knowledge and belief”

Theodor Billroth (1829-1894)