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Assaf A. Gilad, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Assaf A. Gilad, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Radiology and Radiological Science

Research Interests: Stem-cell tracking; Gene replacement; Gene expression; Brain tumors; Brain function; Nanobiosensors; Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Molecular imaging; Cellular imaging more


Assaf Gilad, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Johns Hopkins Medicine Division of MR Research within the Department of Radiology and Radiological Science.

A researcher who specializes in cellular and molecular imaging, Dr. Gilad is also an affiliate faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, where he studies vascular biology. He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2007.

Dr. Gilad’s primary research interest is developing new biosensors and nanoparticles for use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor gene expression, signal transduction gene-replacement therapy, stem-cell tracking and brain function, particularly in patients with brain tumors.

Dr. Gilad earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Technion-Machon Technologi Le'' Israel before earning M.Sc. and doctoral degrees in the same subject at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.

In 2013 Dr. Gilad and colleague Michael McMahon, Ph.D., were awarded a grant from the Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center to study the use of nanobiosensors to non-invasively visualize cancer’s AKT signaling pathways.

The same year, he also garnered a Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission grant—in collaboration with the Hugo W. Moser Research Institute at Kennedy Krieger Institute—to study the visualization of gene expression in brain tumors.

Dr. Gilad has published articles in leading biotechnology and chemistry journals. more


  • Associate Professor of Radiology and Radiological Science

Departments / Divisions



  • Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) (2004)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Gilad’s research is focused on developing novel biosensors (nanoparticles and genetically encoded) for use in MRI. The biosensors are used to monitor gene-replacement therapy, cell tracking and brain function, with special emphasis on brain tumors.

By combining innovative molecular and synthetic-biology tools with imaging-agent chemistry, he aims to develop new ways to image gene expression in real time, which will enable a better understanding of complex biological processes.


The Gilad lab works toward improving existing metal-based agents, as well as engineering new agents based on proteins that can be detected with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These proteins can be made by engineered cells for use in therapies or diagnostic tests, or manufactured and purified from bacteria and then injected into tissue prior to imaging. Using advanced molecular and synthetic biology tools combined with cutting edge imaging technologies, the Gilad lab is modifying these proteins to optimize their production and sensitivity.

Selected Publications

View all on Pubmed

  1. Bar-Shir A, Liu G, Greenberg MM, Bulte JW, Gilad AA. "Synthesis of a probe for monitoring HSV1-tk reporter gene expression using chemical exchange saturation transfer MRI." Nat Protoc. 2013 Dec;8(12):2380-91. doi:10.1038/nprot.2013.140. Epub 2013 Oct 31.
  2. Bar-Shir A, Liu G, Chan KW, Oskolkov N, Song X, Yadav NN, Walczak P, McMahon MT, van Zijl PC, Bulte JW, Gilad AA. "Human Protamine-1 as an MRI Reporter Gene Based on Chemical Exchange." ACS Chem Biol. 2013 Oct 25. [Epub ahead of print]
  3. Liu G, Bettegowda C, Qiao Y, Staedtke V, Chan KW, Bai R, Li Y, Riggins GJ, Kinzler KW, Bulte JW, McMahon MT, Gilad AA, Vogelstein B, Zhou S, van Zijl PC. "Noninvasive imaging of infection after treatment with tumor-homing bacteria using Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (CEST) MRI." Magn Reson Med. 2013 Dec;70(6):1690-8. doi: 10.1002/mrm.24955. Epub 2013 Oct 7.
  4. Bar-Shir A, Gilad AA, Chan KW, Liu G, van Zijl PC, Bulte JW, McMahon MT. "Metal ion sensing using ion chemical exchange saturation transfer 19F magnetic resonance imaging." J Am Chem Soc. 2013 Aug 21;135(33):12164-7. doi: 10.1021/ja403542g. Epub 2013 Aug 6.
  5. Airan RD, Li N, Gilad AA, Pelled G. "Genetic tools to manipulate MRI contrast." NMR Biomed. 2013 Jul;26(7):803-9. doi: 10.1002/nbm.2907. Epub 2013 Jan 28.
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