Novel photoactive biomolecules: A photosensitive purine based drug release strategy and new methodology for generating PET labeled biomolecules

Medical imaging techniques such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs, are widely used tools for diagnosing injury and illness. These tools provide a “”picture”” of bones, organs, muscles, tendons, nerves and cartilage, including any abnormalities. A new and evolving imaging technique called positron emission tomography, or PET scanning, provides additional details by creating a three dimensional image or map of functional processes in the body. By injecting radiolabelled molecules into the bloodstream, and then tracing their path and interactions, researchers and doctors can observe and map metabolic activity within various organs of the body. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) which is used in the treatment of psoriasis and certain cancers is similar to PET scanning in that photodynamic molecules (photosensitizers) are injected into the bloodstream. When the tissue to be treated is exposed to special light, the photosensitizers are activated, leading to a destructive action which kills abnormal cells. Richard Ting’s research is focused on examining and developing novel molecules, with potential application for both PET scanning techniques and photodynamic therapy. He aims to design a new class of molecules that would expand the limited amount of agents that can be imaged during PET scanning. In addition, he is researching a new class of molecules that could be used to improve the processes involved in photodynamic therapy.