Dr. Lee's specific research focuses on the nanomedicine and molecular imaging research field, and particularly regarding the development of innovative multi-functional molecular imaging probes for diagnostic, therapeutic, and clinical applications to various diseases.
1. Development of nanoprobes
Dr. Lee develop multilayered nanoparticles for ultra-long gene silencing and prolonged cell labeling that has benefited the progression in cancer treatment. The benefits of short interfering RNA (siRNA) and its gene silencing effect have been well known in the field. Especially, siRNA has been widely proposed as a future therapy to treat various types of diseases, including cancers. However, its delivery in the body remains a challenge and more effective delivery systems are required to transport therapeutic siRNA to specific cells and tissues. Thus, to effectively deliver siRNA in targeted cells to silence specific gene expressions, Dr. Lee proposed an ingenious theory involving the use of a unique layer-by-layer technique and designed a well-controlled nano-delivery system to implement it. As a result, the multilayered siRNA coated AuNPs was capable to deliver siRNA into various cancer cells and dramatically silenced its gene expression. Dr. Lee's pioneering incorporated protease-assisted slow-release design has successfully achieved persistent siRNA inhibition effect that has conferred a superior effective treatment mechanism for major diseases, including cancers.
2. Development of a novel fluorescent probes for various disease assessment
One example is CNA35 probes for cardiovascular fibrosis detection. Fibrosis in the heart is associated with many cardiac diseases, such as hypertrophy and coronary ischemic heart disease. To assess the dynamic status of fibrosis proper reagents that recognize collagen fibers in vitro and in vivo are critical to understand the definitive mechanism of hypertrophy and heart failure. Despite their effectiveness in examining collagen density and structure, however, the procedure involving their use is lengthy and requires large amount of reagents and washing solutions. Thus, as part of his effort to improve the efficiency and efficacy of histopathological stains, Dr. Lee created an original double staining method enhancing pathological analysis of fibrotic tissues. In doing so, he utilized fluorescently labeled collagen-binding protein CNA 35, derived from the surface component of Staphylococcus aureus, and a novel synthetic biphenyl alanine containing myocyte targeting peptide (MTP), to stain collagen and myocytes associated with fibrosis, respectively. The image information collected by Dr. Lee's innovative fluorescent staining pair is also compatible with that collected by the traditional Masson's Trichrome and Picrosirius Red staining techniques.