Rensselaer educator receives NSF award to advance noninvasive optical imaging method

Xavier Intes, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has won a Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further his noninvasive optical molecular imaging technique to help identify and treat cancerous tumors.

Xavier Intes, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Xavier Intes, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Xavier Intes, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY), has won a Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Intes will use his five-year, $400,000 award to further his noninvasive optical molecular imaging technique to help identify and treat cancerous tumors.

With his research, Intes seeks to exploit optical imaging technologies and equip physicians and researchers with new tools in the fight against cancer. Leveraging the power of these optical imaging and spectroscopy systems could expand our ability to screen for diseases, detect diseases earlier, and lead to more accurate diagnoses, safer therapy, and better monitoring of the healing process. One of Intes' long-term research goals is to advance Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET) as a robust, 3-D imaging platform for in-vivo profiling of tumors and to devise individualized therapeutic regimen. Used in microscopy and spectroscopy, FRET is a noninvasive, non-radioactive optical technique to observe protein interactions at the nanoscale. Currently, FRET applications are limited to observing interactions in cell cultures or Petri dish environments.

With his CAREER project, titled "Whole-Body FRET Tomography," Intes will adapt FRET to observe protein interactions in live animals. This is an important step, says Intes, in order to better see if experimental cancer drugs are working. Many new drugs are designed to actively seek out a tumor inside the body, and FRET is an easy, noninvasive, harmless means to detect whether the drug successfully located and interacted with the tumor. The new FRET optical system uses light to sense and quantify biomarker recognition and create 3-D visual images of drug distribution and interaction in the live animals.

Prior to joining the Rensselaer faculty in 2007, Intes conducted research into biophotonics and biomedical instrumentation as chief scientist at Advanced Research Technologies (Montreal, QC, Canada). He is a member of the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the International Society of Biomedical Imaging. He serves as an active reviewer of numerous science and engineering journals, was the editor of the 2008 book Translational Multimodality Optical Imaging, and has published more than 40 papers in international journals. Additionally, he chairs the annual Multimodal Biomedical Imaging international conference (San Jose, CA).

At Rensselaer, Intes is a member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, Center for Engineering-based Patient Modeling, Center for Modeling, Simulation and Imaging in Medicine, and Scientific Computation Research Center.

In addition to the NSF, Intes receives research funding from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

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