Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Laboratory of Molecular Probes and Diagnosis

Research - Laboratory of Molecular Probes and Diagnosis


Ching H. Tung, Ph.D.
Professor of Radiology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Chief of Imaging Chemistry and Senior Member, Houston Methodist Research Institute
6565 Fannin St. #B5-009
Houston, TX 77030

Lab Members:

Dr. Wael R. Abd El-Galiel
Dr. Subashini Asokan
Dr. Yu-Cheng Chang
Dr. Pei-Wen Chao
Dr. Jae Sam Lee
Dr. Seungkoo Lee
Dr. JianJun Qi


Wael Refat Abd-Elgaliel, Ph.D.
Subashini Asokan, Ph.D.
Yu-Cheng Chang, Ph.D.
Jae Sam Lee, Ph.D.

Mission Statement

The research interests are in designing novel multi-functional molecules for diagnostic, therapeutic and biotechnological applications. To achieve these goals, we focus on environmental sensitive molecules to response mechanistic changes during disease progression. Over the past few years, we have applied the developed novel multi-functional molecules in molecular sensing, in vivo molecular imaging, therapy, and drug delivery.

Research Interests

  • Activatable molecular probes for in vivo imaging of diseases

    Enzymes known to be involved in many diseases associated with pathophysiologic processes are ideal targets for molecular imaging. Knowing that their activities will provide valuable information in diagnosis, detection, and even treatment, our goal is to design unique molecular probes for in vivo detection of specific enzyme activity particularly for those play key roles in different aspects of diseases.

    The probes are designed to act as ?molecular switches? which can only be turned on by targeted enzymes. Once the probes interact with their intended biological targets, a significant change of physical property occurs, for example, fluorescence, absorbance or magnetic relaxation. These developed probes have been used for early detection, characterization, staging and treatment evaluation in the areas of oncology, inflammation, infection, arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases.

  • Fluorochrome chemistry

    In recent years, fluorescence imagining technology has been applied to study molecular targets in various biological systems. Fluorogenic reporter emitting light in the near-infrared range is the key component for this new technology. Thus, we have focused on novel near-infrared fluorochromes with superior optical property and biocompatibility. Both organic and inorganic near-infrared fluorochromes with different reactivity have been synthesized. Currently, we are also designing novel near-infrared absorbers and activatable photosensitizers to promote novel technology in biomedical applications.

  • Drug delivery and targeting

    Cell membrane represents a major obstacle in efficiently delivering molecular drugs to intended targets within mammalian cells. An appropriated delivery vector can significantly improve therapeutic efficacy. We are interested in developing innovative delivery and targeting vectors to overcome biological barriers. It has previously been shown that small peptides could play significant roles in signaling intracellular delivery. Rationally designed peptides and their analogs can thus act as transportation vectors or localization signals. We are currently developing natural and synthetic membrane penetrating and targeting signals to deliver drugs, genes and imaging probes.

  • Nanotechnology

    Our recent progresses in nanomedicine research have created a new wave of medical innovation in medical diagnosis and treatment. We have designed a series of nanomolecules equipped with multiple functionalities by combining our expertise in delivery, enzyme-assisted activation system and bioconjugation. These nanomedicines led by an incorporated molecular compass aim to report abnormality in early stages, to treat disease, to guide surgical operation, and to monitor treatment efficacy.