I received both my M.S. (2002) and Ph.D. (2006) from the M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia. I conducted postdoctoral research in cardiovascular nano- and bio-medicine at Ohio State's Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute (DHLRI) and have served as an American Heart Association postdoctoral fellow at DHLRI. Previously, I was a Research Assistant Professor in the department of Internal Medicine at Ohio State University. I joined the faculty at the University of Maryland, Baltimore in December of 2013.
I have over 15 years of research experience in organic chemistry. More recently, my focus has turned to medical imaging and cardiovascular disease. Most of my research projects are interdisciplinary and highly collaborative. I study environmental particles and their effects on cardiovascular health, develop novel nanoprobes and agents for targeted imaging and therapeutic delivery, investigate lipoproteins and their function, and engage in myriad interdepartmental/multi-institutional projects. Five current themes of my research:
Cardiovascular “Eat-Me” Imaging
My research team and I develop and test new nanoparticles agents, which are tiny devices engineered to target cardiovascular disease while avoiding healthy tissues and organs. We engineer nanoparticle probes that selectively accumulate in atherosclerosis (the prerequisite condition of heart disease), making them avoid healthy organs and tissues, and diminishing dangerous side effects. Here, our science was inspired by an intrinsic, naturally occurred mechanism which deals with the removal of ‘unwanted’ cells by the organism. This entails targeting macrophages, the cells found in large numbers at the sites of atherosclerosis, by means of nanoprobes that display “eat-me” signals. These “eat-me” signals are normally found on the surface of apoptotic (i.e., dying) cells, which are cleared rapidly by macrophages. When our nano-probes are injected, they get recognized by macrophages, engulfed, and are retained at sites of disease allowing their location through MRI.
Therapy and Diagnosis through “Theranostics”
Coupling magnetic resonance imaging with drug delivery is an attractive technology that merges therapy and diagnostic methods—what is often termed “theranostic.” We develop multifunctional nanoparticle agents equipped with ligands, imaging probes, and therapeutics. Ligands will aid our nanoparticles to the sites of disease, imaging probes will enable MRI detection, and therapeutics will allow for treatment. We make these nanoparticles accumulate in atherosclerosis, allowing to better locate and assess disease progression and response to therapy.
Escaping Clearance via Nanosystems
Many nanoparticles have been developed so far, but the major breakthrough is to be made by probes that avoid reticuloendothelial system (RES). A large percentage of injected doses of a typical agent will be cleared off (removed from circulation) by RES organs such as spleen, kidneys, and liver. A challenge faced by researchers is that many of imaging probes exhibit so-called ‘off-target’ (i.e., unintended) retention in normal organs. Our laboratory attempts to address some of the key issues with most drug delivery systems: lack of specificity, off-target effects, and poor imaging contrast of conventional contrast agents. We design ‘clicking’ nanosystems, which are tiny, nanoscale devices equipped with unique mechanism allowing them to converge and accumulate only in sites of the disease.
Nanoscale Cholesterol Trafficking
Cholesterol transport plays a key role in mediating the development of cardiovascular disease and its progression. We develop synthetic nanoprobes that can obtain cholesterol flux information in vitro and in vivo through Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) spectroscopy. Our team is able to conduct real-time cholesterol release monitoring in order to evaluate a patient’s high-density lipoprotein (HDL) function—an important metric in determining cardiovascular risk.
Aspects of HDL Function
Removing excess cholesterol from macrophages is thought to be one of the key mechanisms underlying atheroprotective properties of HDL. Our laboratory studies series of HDL function characteristics, such as such as oxidation status, ability to accept cholesterol (RCT), and anti-inflammatory properties. My team and I investigate HDL obtained from multiple patient populations participating in multiple interventions and environmental stressors (e.g., environmental pollutants and particulate matter). We also study HDL functionality in dysglycemic and diabetic patients, individuals engaging in in aerobic exercise, individuals exposed to particulate matter, and other situations.
Lab Techniques and Equipment:
Because my laboratory’s research focus is cardiovascular imaging, my team and I employ various diagnostic methods to detect cardiovascular disease and its biomarkers. We frequently use high-field magnetic resonance imaging, intravital confocal microscopy and whole-body fluorescence imaging. We conduct experiments, such as pharmacokinetic analysis and atherosclerosis biomarker identification and quantification. We also develop methods for isolation and purification via fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC), ultracentrifugation, and flow-cytometric cell analysis. In our pharmacokinetic studies, HDL function investigations, and synthetic and natural nanoparticle work we use liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS) in order to detect lipid biomarkers, small molecules, and peptides.
Faculty members: Update your contact information and create a profile.