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Y. Shrike Zhang

Tissue tailor is fabricating organ mimics and testing drugs on them to personalize medicine

by Celia Henry Arnaud
August 20, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 33

Many scientists would feel like slackers when faced with Y. Shrike Zhang's publication record. Only 32 years old, he already has more than 120 publications to his credit. And around 50 of those were published in 2016 and 2017 alone.

As a postdoctoral researcher in Ali Khademhosseini's lab at Harvard Medical School, Zhang led a subgroup of about 30 scientists—nearly a third of the overall lab. "He's the total package," says Khademhosseini, now at the University of California, Los Angeles. "He's not just good at science and writing papers, but he's also incredible at funding and handling larger operations. He's got that level of maturity fairly early."

Now with his own lab at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Zhang develops model human tissues and organ mimics called organoids to predict people's responses to drugs and help personalize medicine. He focuses on improving every aspect of such systems, including the biofabrication techniques that grow the tissues, the microfluidics that supply them with nutrients, and the analytical methods needed to monitor their health.

Many people just have a fairly constant, slightly upward-sloping trajectory. Shrike's trajectory is astronomical.
Ali Khademhosseini, UCLA

Instead of just culturing cells, Zhang is working on direct printing of tissues with so-called bioinks—mixtures of cells and biomaterials that can be used in three-dimensional printers. The 3-D bioprinting lets him control where cells are deposited to build an organoid. "It's more robust and flexible, and it potentially gives you higher reproducibility," he says.

Zhang is meanwhile trying to bridge what he sees as a missing link in the organs-on-chips field: measurement technology. "People don't have many ways to look at how organoids are behaving or responding to drug molecules," he says. "We're developing a miniaturized microscope that can allow us to do 3-D imaging of organoids in a bioreactor. We can directly fit a small imager at the bottom of a bioreactor and look at how the organoids behave in three dimensions."

Khademhosseini expects Zhang to go far. "I'm confident he's going to do a lot of incredible things in the next 10 years," he says. "Many people just have a fairly constant, slightly upward-sloping trajectory. Shrike's trajectory is astronomical."

Watch Zhang speak at the American Chemical Society national meeting on Aug. 20 in Boston.
Credit: C&EN/ACS Productions

Vitals

Current affiliation: Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women's Hospital

Age: 32

Ph.D. alma mater: Georgia Institute of Technology & Emory University

If I weren't a chemist, I would be: A wildlife photographer. Nature and the creatures residing in it are simply amazing.

If I were an element, I would be: Hydrogen. It's leading the table.

Latest TV show binge-watched: Sports of all kinds

Walk up song: "Yang guang zong zai feng yu hou" (Sunshine after the rain) by Mavis Hsu

Research at a glance


Credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN/Shutterstock

Zhang is improving methods for making and analyzing tissues in organs on chips. He uses 3-D printing to build tissue scaffolds and other constructs, as well as a variety of techniques—the mini-microscope shown is only one of them—to analyze the biomaterials.

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Tissue Engineering

Y. Shrike Zhang

Tissue tailor is fabricating organ mimics and testing drugs on them to personalize medicine

by Celia Henry Arnaud
August 19, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 33

09633-cover13-zhang.jpg
Credit: Joel Kimmel
Shrike Zhang
09633-cover13-research.jpg
Credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN/Shutterstock
Zhang is improving methods for making and analyzing tissues in organs on chips. He uses 3-D printing to build tissue scaffolds and other constructs, as well as a variety of techniques—the mini-microscope shown is only one of them—to analyze the biomaterials.

Vitals

Current affiliation: Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Age: 32

Ph.D. alma mater: Georgia Institute of Technology & Emory University

If I weren’t a chemist, I would be: A wildlife photographer. Nature and the creatures residing in it are simply amazing.

If I were an element, I would be: Hydrogen. It’s leading the table.

Latest TV show binge-watched: Sports of all kinds

Walk-up song: “Yang guang zong zai feng yu hou” (Sunshine after the rain) by Mavis Hsu

Three key papers

“Microfluidics-Enabled Multi-Material Maskless Stereolithographic Bioprinting” (Adv. Mater. 2018, DOI: 10.1002/adma.201800242)

“Multisensor-Integrated Organs-on-Chips Platform for Automated and Continual In Situ Monitoring of Organoid Behaviors” (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2017, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1612906114)

“Rapid Continuous Multimaterial Extrusion Bioprinting” (Adv. Mater. 2016, DOI: 10.1002/adma.201604630)

Many scientists would feel like slackers when faced with Y. Shrike Zhang’s publication record. Only 32 years old, he already has more than 120 publications to his credit. And around 50 of those were published in 2016 and 2017 alone.

As a postdoctoral researcher in Ali Khademhosseini’s lab at Harvard Medical School, Zhang led a subgroup of about 30 scientists—nearly a third of the overall lab. “He’s the total package,” says Khademhosseini, now at the University of California, Los Angeles. “He’s not just good at science and writing papers, but he’s also incredible at funding and handling larger operations. He’s got that level of maturity fairly early.”

Now with his own lab at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Zhang develops model human tissues and organ mimics called organoids to predict people’s responses to drugs and help personalize medicine. He focuses on improving every aspect of such systems, including the biofabrication techniques that grow the tissues, the microfluidics that supply them with nutrients, and the analytical methods needed to monitor their health.

Instead of just culturing cells, Zhang is working on direct printing of tissues with so-called bioinks—mixtures of cells and biomaterials that can be used in three-dimensional printers. The 3-D bioprinting lets him control where cells are deposited to build an organoid. “It’s more robust and flexible, and it potentially gives you higher reproducibility,” he says.

Zhang is meanwhile trying to bridge what he sees as a missing link in the organs-on-chips field: measurement technology. “People don’t have many ways to look at how organoids are behaving or responding to drug molecules,” he says. “We’re developing a miniaturized microscope that can allow us to do 3-D imaging of organoids in a bioreactor. We can directly fit a small imager at the bottom of a bioreactor and look at how the organoids behave in three dimensions.”

Khademhosseini expects Zhang to go far. “I’m confident he’s going to do a lot of incredible things in the next 10 years,” he says. “Many people just have a fairly constant, slightly upward-sloping trajectory. Shrike’s trajectory is astronomical.”

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