Department of Medicine

Department of Medicine

  Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

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photo Yang Liu, PhD

Associate Professor of Bioengineering

Director, Biomedical Optical Imaging Laboratory

Member, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Insitute (UPCI)

Core faculty member, Department of Biomedical Informatics


Phone: 412-623-3751

Office: Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition
5117 Centre Ave Hillman Cancer Center 2.32
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Phone: 412-623-3751
Fax: 412-623-7828
Education and Training
PhD, Northwestern University, 2006
MS, University of Chicago, 2001
BS, Nankai University, 1999
Postdoctoral Scientist, Johnson & Johnson, 2007
Research Interest
The laboratory of Dr. Yang Liu, and Associate Professor of Bioengineering focuses on developing personalized approaches to improve early cancer detection. Current clinical practice relies on a one-shoe-fits-all-approach, which screens the entire at-risk population to identify a small percentage of truly high-risk patients, as with colonoscopy and mammography. Frequent, invasive surveillance of patients at risk for developing cancer carries financial, physical, and emotional burdens and can do more harm than good to the patients.

Given that nuclear architecture is one of the hallmarks in cancer diagnostics, our premise is based on nanoscale nuclear architecture mapping to identify earlier and more accurate markers and understand the characteristic alteration of nanoscale (i.e., less than 100 nm) nuclear architecture in cancer initiation and progression. Current tools to visualize nuclear architecture are mostly limited to microscale.

Our multi-disciplinary team integrates optics, physics, engineering, bioinformatics, chemistry, biology and clinical medicine, and develops imaging technologies to address this highly unmet clinical need. Our current projects include: (1) Development of clinically applicable imaging technology for high-throughput nanoscale nuclear architecture mapping (nanoNAM) of clinical samples to predict early-cancer progression in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Barrett’s esophagus and breast pre-cancerous lesions prior to the detection of clinically significant lesions; (2) Development of high-throughput super-resolution fluorescence nanoscopy (STORM, PALM) for nanoscale imaging of chromatin organization and epigenetics in cancer initiation and progression; (3) Development of 3D super-resolution fluorescence nanoscopy for imaging thick tissue.
Educational Interest
Our laboratory provides an unique multi-disciplinary environment, ideally suited for graduate students, medical students, residents and fellows who are interested in technology development (physics, electrical engineering, bioinformatics) and clinical translation of imaging technology to improve patient care.
For my complete bibliography, Click Here.
Selected Publications:
Uttam, S, Pham, H.V., LaFace, J., Leibowitz, B., Yu, J., Brand, R.E., Hartman, D.J., Liu, Y. Early Prediction of Cancer Progression by Depth-Resolved Nanoscale Mapping of Nuclear Architecture from Unstained Tissue Specimens. Cancer Research. 2015; 75: 4718-27.
Ma, H., Xu, J., Jin, J., Gao, Y., Lan, L., Liu, Y. Fast and precise 3D fluorophore localization based on gradient fitting. Scientific reports. 2015; 5: 14335.
Uttam, S., Liu, Y. Fourier phase in Fourier-domain optical coherence tomography. Journal of the Optical Society of America. A, Optics, image science, and vision. 2015; 32: 2286-306.
Pham, H.V., Pantanowitz, L., Liu, Y. Quantitative phase imaging to improve the diagnostic accuracy of urine cytology. Cancer cytopathology. 2016; doi:10.1002/cncy.21734.
Liu ,Y., Uttam, S., Alexandrov, S., Bista, R. Investigation of nanoscale structural alterations of cell nucleus as an early sign of cancer. BMC Biophysics. 2014; 7: 1.
Notable Achievements
Pitt Innovator Award, 2014, 2016
Fast Tracker Award, Pittsburgh Business Times, 2014
Edmund Optics Higher Education Award, 2013
Wallace H. Coulter Phase I&II Translational Research Award, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, 2010, 2012
Melanoma SPORE Career Development Award, 2009
Reviewer and panelist, National Science Foundation, Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Imaging Technologies, 2009-Present
Ad hoc reviewer, National Institute of Health EBIT study section, 2015-2016
Ad hoc reviewer, National Institute of Health IMAT study section, 2015-2016