Keynote Speakers

Cell to cell data transfer via exosomes as “Nanoparcels” of molecular information

Chris Contag

Christopher H. Contag

James and Kathleen Cornelius Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering
Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics
Director, Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824, USA

Mammalian cells secrete several types of extracellular vesicles (EVs) including exosomes, microvesicles, and apoptotic bodies, and each EV type differs in biogenesis, composition, and function. EVs are an information rich, but perhaps primitive, means of cellular communication that can transfer a range of macromolecules to recipient cells. EVs from normal and cancerous cells play roles in biological processes that range from surface-membrane trafficking to horizontal transfer of macromolecules among neighboring or distant cells and are becoming important diagnostic and prognostic tools. Molecular profiling of various EV types has been performed to determine whether EVs derived from normal and cancerous cells exhibit unique molecular signatures that differentially modulate cellular functions. EV as a means of cellular communication appears, at present, to be a somewhat indiscriminate lacking the specificity that characterizes receptor-mediated signaling observed for other means of cellular communication such as by hormones, cytokines, and chemokines. However, their stability, high information content, range of influence, and potential to cross biological barriers make EVs potential tools to be engineered for modulating cellular functions, targeting therapy and controlling tissue regeneration in the living body.

Short Biography

Dr. Contag recently joined Michigan State University in 2017 as the founding director of the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering (IQ) and the inaugural chair of the new Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering. Dr. Contag received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul in 1982. He received his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in 1988, where he did his dissertation research on the topic of viral infections of the central nervous system. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University from 1990-1994 in the Department of Microbiology where he studied mother-to-infant transmission of HIV, and then joined the faculty in Pediatrics at Stanford in 1995 with a joint appointment in Microbiology and Immunology and courtesy appointments in Bioengineering and Radiology. Dr. Contag served as the Associate Chief of the Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, the director of Stanford’s Center for Innovation in In Vivo Imaging (SCI3) and co-director of both the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS) and Child Health Research Institute (CHRI) at Stanford University. Dr. Contag has developed and used noninvasive imaging approaches to reveal molecular processes in living subjects and to advance diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for cancer. His work with extracellular vesicles (EVs), exosomes and microvessicles, has focused on their biological and diagnostic relevance as well as engineering EVs as drug delivery systems. Dr. Contag is a founding member, and past president of the Society for Molecular Imaging (now part of WMIS) and recent past president and a Fellow of WMIS. For his fundamental contributions in the field of molecular imaging, he was awarded the Achievement Award from the Society for the Molecular Imaging. For his fundamental contributions to the field of optics he was awarded the Britton Chance Award from the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). Dr. Contag was a founder of Xenogen Corp., now part of PerkinElmer, a company with the mission of commercializing in vivo bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging, and is a founder of BioEclipse Inc., a company aimed at improving cancer immunotherapy, and a founder of PixelGear, a point-of-care pathology company.

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