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Dr. Christopher Contag

Dr. Christopher ContagDr. Christopher Contag is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics – Neonatology, of Microbiology & Immunology and, by courtesy, of Radiology at Stanford University.  He currently serves in the roles of Co-Director of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS,, Director of the Stanford Center for Innovation in In-Vivo Imaging (SCI3, and Director of the Stanford Near Infrared Optics and Photomedicine Center.  He is a member of the Stanford BioX faculty (, the immunology Program and the Stanford Cancer Center (  His area of study focuses on understanding both the mechanisms of disease (cancer, infection and genetic diseases), and the complex genetic programs of mammalian development and stem cell biology. His group has developed methods that simultaneously reveal the nuances, and the overall picture of cellular and molecular processes in a living animal.  These approaches allow for rapid assessment of the effects of antineoplastic therapies, antibiotics or antiviral drugs, revealing possible modes of action, which result in significantly more information than can be obtained using a vivisectionist approach in that the animals are living and the data is obtained in real-time.

A goal of the Contag Laboratory is to:

  1. Develop tools that make the body essentially transparent for scientific discovery,
  2. Use these tools to understand how pathogens cause disease and how the host organism responds to these pathogens,
  3. Use these tools to understand how the immune system monitors cell transformation in cancer, and
  4. Use these tools to understand the regulatory networks that control cell migration and development.

Contag’s experimental approach is based on the observation that light can pass through mammalian tissues.  The genes originating from fireflies and other "glow-in-the-dark" (bioluminescent) organisms serve to mark mammalian cells and pathogens. These marked entities are then used in animal models of human biology and disease, and the light that they produce is externally monitored to reveal levels of expression, growth rate, or movement within tissue and organs.

Recently, Contag et al. has revealed the kinetics of stem cell engraftment and hematopoietic reconstitution, elucidated the nature of minimal residual disease states following cancer therapy and identified tissue sites that pathogens use to evade the host immune response.

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Lab members include: Michael Bachmann, Yuan Cao, Tim Doyle, Patrick Eimerman, Emilio Gonzalez, Henry Haeberle, Michael Mandella, Laura Bronsart, Jonathan Hardy, Andrew Ladd, Irfan Ali Khan, Jocelyn Ko, Jonathan T.C. Liu, Wibool Piyawattanametha, Jennifer Prescher, Hyejun Ra, Tobi Schmidt, and Mark Sellmyer,.  To read more, please click on

Abbreviated List of Recent Publications:

1.             Helms, M.W., Kemming, D., Contag, CH, Pospisil, H, Bartkowiak, K, Wang, A, Chang, SY, Buerger, H, Brandt, BH (2009). TOB1 is regulated by EGF-dependent HER2 and EGFR signaling, is highly phosphorylated, and indicates poor prognosis in node-negative breast cancer. Cancer Res 69, 5049-5056.

2.             Watkins, GA, Jones, EF, Shell, MS, VanBrocklin, HF, Pan, M-H, Hanrahan, SM, Feng, JJ, He, J, Sounni, NE, Dill, KA, Contag, CH, Coussens, LM, Franc, BL. (2009) Development of an optimized activatable MMP-14 targeted SPECT imaging probe. Bioorg Med Chem  17:653-659.

3.              Hotson, AN, Hardy, JW, Hale, MB, Contag, CH and Nolan, GP (2009) The T cell intracellular signaling network is reprogrammed within hours of bacteremia via secondary signals. J. Immunol. 182: 7558-7568.

4.             Mackanos, MA, Larabi, M, Shinde, R, Simanovskii, DM, Guccione, S, Contag, CH(2009) Laser-induced disruption of systemically administered liposomes for targeted drug deliveryJ Biomed Optics 14(4): 044009.  

5.             Lee, SW, Padmanabhan P, Ray P, Gambhir SS, Doyle T, Contag CH, Goodman SB, Biswal, S (2009) Stem cell-mediated accelerated bone healing observed with in vivo molecular and small animal imaging technologies in a model of skeletal injury. J Orthop Res. 27:295-302.

6.             van der Bogt KE, Schrepfer S, Yu J, Sheikh AY, Hoyt G, Govaert JA, Velotta JB,Contag CH, Robbins RC, Wu JC. (2009) Comparison of transplantation of adipose tissue- and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in the infarcted heartTransplantation,87:642-652.

7.             Liu JT, Helms MW, Mandella MJ, Crawford JM, Kino GS, Contag CH (2009)Quantifying cell-surface biomarker expression in thick tissues with ratiometric three-dimensional microscopyBiophys J96:2405-2414.

8.             Gonzalez-Gonzalez, E., Ra, H., Hickerson, R.P., Wang, Q, Piyawattanametha, W, Mandella, MJ, Kino, GS, Leake, D, Avilion, AA, Solgaard, O, Doyle, TC Contag, CH. and Kaspar, RL (2009). siRNA silencing of keratinocyte-specific GFP expression in a transgenic mouse skin model. Gene Ther.

9.             Sonn GA, Mach KE, Jensen K, Hsiung PL, Jones SN, Contag CH, Wang TD, Liao JC (2009) Fibered confocal microscopy of bladder tumors: an ex vivo studyJ Endourol23:197-201.

10.          Thorne SH, Barak Y, Liang W, Bachmann MH, Rao J, Contag CH, Matin A. (2009)CNOB/ChrR6, a new prodrug enzyme cancer chemotherapyMol Cancer Ther 8:333-341.

11.          Hardy J, Chu P, Contag CHFoci of Listeria monocytogenes persist in the bone marrowDis Model Mech 2009, 2:39-46.

12.          Creusot RJ, Yaghoubi SS, Chang P, Chia J, Contag CH, Gambhir SS, Fathman CG:Lymphoid tissue specific homing of bone marrow-derived dendritic cellsBlood 113: 6638-6647

13.          Mackanos, MA, Hargrove, J, Wolters, R, Du, CB, Friedland, S, Soetikno, RM, Contag, CH, Arroyo, MR, Crawford, JM, Wang, TD (2009) Use of an endoscope-compatible probe to detect colonic dysplasia with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. J Biomed Optics 14, 044006.

14.          Mackanos, MA, Larabi, M, Shinde, R, Simanovskii, DM, Guccione, S, Contag, CH(2009) Laser-induced disruption of systemically administered liposomes for targeted drug delivery. J Biomed Optics 14, 044009 .

15.          Piyawattabanetha, W, Ra, H, Mandella, MJ,  Loewke, Wang, TD, Kino, GS, Solgaard, O, Contag, CH (2009) 3-D near-infrared fluorescence imaging using a MEMS-based miniatuire dual axis confocal microscope. IEEE J. Sel. Topics Quantum Electronics. 15(5): 1344-1350.

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