Dr. Maolin Guo: enabling protein imaging in live cells

Dr. Guo is engineering a tool to study protein in cells in order to identify disease-causing genetic mutations.

professor at podium

by Adrienne N. Wartts

The cells within the human body contain thousands of unique types of proteins, and it is estimated that thousands of diseases are caused by genetic mutation and mislocated proteins within the cells of the body. The diagnosis of many of these diseases can be very difficult because mislocated proteins and their locations are not visible to the human eye. 

Dr. Maolin Guo—a professor in the Chemisty & Biochemistry Department—has been awarded $469,548 by the National Institutes of Health to engineer a tool that will genetically incorporate a fluorescent amino acid into proteins. Tagging proteins with fluorescent light will allow protein imaging in live cells and their locations will be observed in real time at a microscopic level. The tool also has a broad capacity for studying protein trafficking, signal transduction, and monitoring mislocated proteins in the cells.

Identifying disease-causing genetic mutations

"This approach will identify the specific disease-causing genetic mutations identified in studies of various health conditions and expose the origin of diseases suspected to be caused by mislocated proteins," Guo said. "Finally, additional proteins within the same affected pathway can be identified and linked with a disease state, providing clinicians with additional diagnostic targets and risk factors, which can ultimately improve patient care."

The way protein-based pharmaceuticals are absorbed, distributed, and metabolized in the body can also be tracked. This data may ultimately prove beneficial for clinicians in terms of reaching the best therapeutic strategies for patients.

More information


College of Arts and Sciences, Departments Chemistry and Biochemistry Dept, Faculty, Research