Theranostic Nanomedicine Section

Theranostic Nanomedicine is the medical application of nanobiotechnology and refers to highly specific medical intervention at the nanoscale for diagnosing, curing or preventing diseases. Theranostic Nanomedicine involves the creation and application of nanobiomaterials and devices at the molecular level for personalized diagnosis, imaging and therapy.

Using a multidisciplinary approach, our lab builds new systems for various nanobiomedical applications ranging from the medical use of nanoplatform-based diagnostic agents, to therapeutic agents, and even possible future applications of theranostics (diagnosis + therapy). By integrating state-of-the-art molecular imaging and nanomedicine with peptide/protein chemistry, polymer/inorganic chemistry, nanobioconjugation chemistry, cell/molecular biology as well as clinical medicine, we are developing future nanoplatforms which enable i) early detection of diseases, ii) monitoring therapeutic response, and iii) targeted delivery of therapeutic agents. Its improved practical potency highlights its potential as new personalized strategies to help improve patient management and outcomes in the near future.

A full list of Dr. Chen's publications can be found on PubMed.


This is an image of an activatable nanoprobe where the fluorescence signal is strongly quenched, and can be activated by specific stimuli. For example, protease, pH or temperature.

Recent interdisciplinary research that couples molecular imaging science with nanotechnology has generated novel NanoProbes that exhibit high sensitivity and ultra-low background noise in both in vitro and in vivo applications. We are developing various highly-sensitive NanoProbes which can be utilized for imaging biological processes, cell tracking, early diagnosis, and monitoring of therapeutic efficacy.


This is an image of PET imaging of targeted nano platforms in mice.Most of the mouse is blue representing low signal. In the middle of the mouse, there is a large bright spot that represents high uptake of the nanoprobe where the tumor is located.

The purpose of this research is to develop new therapeutic systems based on nano-hybrid biomolecules. We are developing non-toxic, targeted delivery systems that carry and stabilize various therapeutic agents. We formulate Small molecules, engineered therapeutic peptides/proteins, and siRNA/miRNAs with unique NanoCarriers by sophisticated nanobioconjugation and encapsulation methods to maximize therapeutic efficacy.


This is a schematic of a sensor based on non fluorescent and broad spectrum nano quencher.

We aim to develop ultrasensitive, simple, and cost-effective high-throughput methods for screening and early detection of biomarkers using combined nanoplatform and molecular imaging technologies. Our goal is to develop a system that will boost the sensitivity of conventional techniques and facilitate the detection of low-abundance biomarkers from biological/clinical samples.

Theranostic NanoFormulations

Theranostic agents developed based on ‘all-in-one approach’ will show great promise in the emerging field of personalized medicine, because they allow detection as well as monitoring of diseases at an early-stage, and delivering therapeutic agents over an extended period for enhanced therapeutic efficacy. We are developing sophisticated multifunctional theranostic agents that not only carry and deliver gene therapeutics and chemotherapeutics but also provide real-time imaging of therapy response in vivo. If successful, the proof-of-concept will allow for widespread preclinical and clinical applications of theranostics in cancer, cardiovascular, infectious and immune diseases.

Nanoparticle analyzer (Horiba SZ-100)

Fluorescence spectrometer (Hitachi F-7000)

Thermal camera(FLIR SC-300)

Microplate Reader (BioTek, Synergy 2 )

The Theranostic Nanomedicine Section is located in Building 9, room 1W11 with experimental work also performed in Building 10.

The laboratory is equipped to perform chemical synthesis of nanoparticles as well as modification and characterization with zeta-potential and dynamic light scattering (DLS) size analyzer (Horiba SZ-100), UV-visual spectrometer (Thermo Genesys 10s), fluorescence spectrometer (Hitachi F-7000 and Horiba FluorMax-4), alternating magnetic field induction heater (6.6 kW, Across International), thermal imager (FLIR SC-300), custom photoacoustic microscope, custom near-infrared and white light microendoscope and Raman spectrometer (BWTEK).

The lab includes microbiological and cell/tissue culture equipment with lyophilizer (Labconco), peptide synthesizer (CS Bio 336X), cell cytometer (BD Accuri C6), and microplate reader (BioTeck Synergy 2). The lab has a microscopy setup (Zeiss Axio Imager A2 upright bright-field microscope, Olympus X-81 epifluorescence microscope, and an Olympus Fluoview F10i-LIV automated confocal laser-scanning microscope).

In vivo work is done in collaboration with Biological Molecular Imaging Section with access to the PET-CT scanner (Siemens) and fluorescence and luminescence imagers (CRI Maestro II and IVIS Lumina II) and access to MRI and photoacoustic facilities in the NIH Mouse Imaging Facility (MIF).