Mukherjee Lab to Vancouver

Phuc Pham | New University

Phuc Pham | New University

Preclinical imaging lab to present work at annual Nuclear Medicine Conference in Canada.

Displaying both his own recent research into imaging for the use of disease diagnosis and the work of his undergraduate researchers, Professor of Radiological Sciences at UC Irvine Dr. Jogesh Mukherjee, and seven additional members of his preclinical imaging lab focused on researching preclinical imaging, will be flying to Vancouver, Canada for the annual Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) meeting. The event, which will take place from Saturday, June 8, through Wednesday, June 12, is intended to help researchers display their findings among their professional peers, as well as continue their education in molecular imaging.

“What we are involved in is diagnosis of diseases,” Dr. Mukherjee said.

Using a type of live imaging known as ‘Positron Emission Tomography’ (PET), Dr. Mukherjee’s lab is able to design small radioactive molecules that are able to trace specific diseases within the human body.

“The strength of PET is that we can synthesize — we design and synthesize — a small molecule,” Dr. Mukherjee said. “And this small molecule can be tagged [and] is designed such that it specifically goes to a particular target.”

The four undergraduate members of Dr. Mukherjee’s team who will be attending this year’s SNMMI meeting are:  Alisha K. Bajwa, a fourth-year biological sciences major; Aparna Baranwal, a third-year biological sciences major; Sharon Kuruvilla, a third-year biomedical engineering major; and Himika Patel, a fourth-year pharmaceutical sciences major.

Bajwa and Kuruvilla have worked with Mukherjee for more than a year, and Patel has been working in this lab for two years. This is Baranwal’s third quarter with the research lab. Each student has been working on a different targeting-agent that detects distinct receptors to identify disease. Bajwa, for example, has been working with an imaging tracer known as “Mefway” to target receptors associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m interested to see other people in the field, [and] to get a chance to talk to them,” Bajwa said. “I know there is going to be a lot of stuff on the clinical side, which is kind of interesting to me, so I want to see all of the doctors that are going to be there and what they would have to say about Alzheimer’s disease.”

Baranwal, as well as her fellow researchers, will be presenting her work by combining a tracer that is commonly used to indicate metabolic activity with amines to determine potential applications in identifying metabolic imbalances.

“This has never been done before and we are still investigating its applications,” Baranwal said.

The annual meeting will officially begin Sunday morning and end on Wednesday afternoon. “I think it will [give us] the opportunity to meet people in our fields, and introduce the students to people as well,” Dr. Mukherjee said. “And the students are very excited, too — nervous!”

Abstracts were submitted early January of this year, reviewed by five people and ranked. Exhibitors were then accepted to present in the meeting, according to their ranking and notified of their acceptance late March. The scientific community looks forward to this meeting for new breakthroughs in nuclear medicine and neuroimaging.

The SNMMI conference allows for student exhibitors to consolidate their research studies and prepare professional presentations on their work.

Patel concluded, “I would like to say that my entire research experience, especially the SNM conference, has been amazing and a great learning experience where I was able to grow and mature personally and educationally. All this would not have been possible without the guidance, mentorship, and encouragement of Dr. Mukherjee. As I graduate UCI and go onto pharmacy school at USC this coming August, I will always take the lessons I have learned through research, about scientific principles or just about life.”