Yingying Ning, a postdoctoral fellow in the Caravan Lab at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, received the Young Investigator Award at the World Molecular Imaging Congress (WMIC) last month.
The award recognizes Dr. Ning’s robust work in developing molecular magnetic resonance (MR) probes for quantitatively imaging active fibrosis, also known as fibrogenesis. Fibrosis, the result of aberrant tissue repair following acute or chronic injury, can affect any organ and about 45 percent of all deaths in the industrialized world have a fibroproliferative component: for example, heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and chronic kidney disease. Despite the prevalence of organ fibrosis, we still do not have a noninvasive method to measure disease activity. Dr. Ning is looking to change this.
“My research focuses on using chemistry tools to design highly sensitive molecular MR probes for detecting and quantifying fibrogenesis,” she says. “Our goal is to translate these contrast agents from the bench to the bedside.” At the WMIC, Dr. Ning showed that her imaging technique could detect the early onset of liver fibrosis in a mouse model of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, and was also extremely sensitive to measuring response to therapy in that model. Clinically, this would translate to earlier detection of disease than with current methods as well as the ability to monitor the effectiveness of treatment.
Dr. Ning has been pursuing this work for the past two years – since she joined the Martinos Center in September 2019. She and colleagues in Caravan’s group in the Center are now preparing a manuscript describing the work. At the same time, they are extending the application of the new molecular probe to other organs, including for diseases of the lung and the heart, while also confirming the efficacy of the probe in larger animal models. “The results look promising,” she says, “and we are excited to move forward.”
Dr. Ning adds that she is grateful for the recognition from the WMIC and “deeply appreciates” the teamwork and support in the Caravan Lab that made the award possible, along with research support from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
In the image above: Yingying Ning (center) celebrates receiving the award with lab director Peter Caravan (on her right) and other members of the team.