Associate Professor Xiaowei Wang is a cardiovascular researcher interested in using imaging technologies like ultrasound, MRI and CT to identify high-risk plaque in the arteries. She is also interested in developing targeted drug delivery methods without side effects to help people recover after a heart attack.
Associate Professor Wang heads the Molecular Imaging and Theranostics laboratory at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, and co-chairs the Atherothrombosis Program.
She was trained as a sonographer for echocardiography prior to her research career; therefore her work has a strong focus on translational cardiovascular research. Associate Professor Wang’s work spans across several scientific fields, including physics, chemistry, biology and biotechnology, and uniquely combines both basic research and translational development of future diagnostic tools to be used in patients. Her research focuses on preclinical molecular imaging across a range of technologies, such as MRI, ultrasound, PET, microCT, fluorescence and photoacoustic imaging. Associate Professor Wang has employed these technologies for both diagnostic and theranostic (simultaneous diagnosis, therapy and monitoring of treatment efficacy) purposes. Her other research interests are targeted drug therapy and the use of micro/nanoparticles for targeted delivery of drugs.
Associate Professor Wang has presented her work at numerous conferences. She has been awarded 15 international and 12 national travel grants, 14 Young Investigator Awards and 18 prizes. Associate Professor Wang is also a founding member of the Australian Society of Molecular Imaging (ASMI), established in 2013, and was elected as President. She is the Australian Representative for both the Federation of Asian Societies of Molecular Imaging (FASMI) and the World Molecular Imaging Society (WMIS). Associate Professor Wang is the President-elect of FASMI and will be President in 2021. She is also a member of the Baker Institute’s Gender Equity and Diversity Committee, Chair of the Institute’s Mentoring Committee, and on the Leadership Committee of the Women in Molecular Imaging Network.
Platelets play a significant role in both cardiovascular disease and cancer. Glycoprotein (GP) IIb/IIIa is the most abundant platelet surface receptor, responsible for adhesion and aggregation. We have developed a conformation-specific single-chain antibodies (scFv) binding specifically to activated GPIIb/IIIa on platelets.
By conjugating the scFv with the appropriate contrast agents, we have shown in vivo imaging of thrombosis and myocardial infarction across several imaging platforms: 1) microbubbles for ultrasound, 2) near-infrared dyes for fluorescence imaging, 3) iron oxides for MRI and 4) radiotracers for PET/CT. After the administration of clinical used fibrinolytic drugs, we directly visualized the thrombus size reduction. More recently, we have shown that specific targeting of our scFv within the tumour microenvironment using PET/CT, optical and ultrasound imaging. Activated platelets are ideal targets for molecular imaging of atherothrombosis and cancer.
Bleeding complications hamper current pharmaceutics treatment for thrombosis. By genetically engineering our scFv with anti-coagulant or anti-thrombotic drugs, we have achieved side-effects free targeted delivery of these agents to blood clots in vivo. Using a low systemic dose of these fusion constructs, we have demonstrated the prevention of thrombosis and the preservation of heart function post-infarction, without an increase in bleeding.
Building on these diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to attain a novel theranostics strategy, we have shown the successful thrombolysis in vivo using an acute thrombosis model. Overall, the targeting of activated platelets provides an opportunity to diagnose and treat a range of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.