Graduate Student, Chemical and Physical Biology
Recently, focal heating procedures have gained popularity for treating human illness. In these approaches, energy is targeted to stimulate or ablate the tissue. Techniques such as a focused ultrasound are noninvasive, and provide an alternative option to surgery. In order to perform these treatments, accurate and rapid temperature imaging is needed to validate the location of the heating focus, measure the temperature rise within the target region, and monitor the safety of surrounding tissue throughout the procedure. The aim of my research is to develop improved methods for mapping temperature changes using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The proton resonance frequency (PRF) in tissue shifts with temperature and provides a quantitative measure of temperature change. However, the PRF shift also causes a distortion in the image. I am working to produce images that are corrected for the spatial distortions from heating. This method will also create temperature maps using less data and with accelerated computing. With faster measurements, a larger section of the body can be imaged during the therapy.
MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) interventions are being developed for cancer treatment, drug delivery, and neurological stimulation, among other applications. Through my involvement in the clinic, I will gain a better understanding of how my research project translates to patient therapy. Use of MRgFUS to treat adenomyosis is an alternative to hysterectomy and will be investigated in a clinical trial. Following MRgFUS treatment, hysterectomy will be performed and effects on the tissue will be studied through histological samples. MRgFUS is minimally invasive and has the potential for significant positive impact for patients. In particular, it can preserve fertility and is an outpatient procedure. From observations of treatment planning, procedures, and effects, I will more fully appreciate current limitations in clinical treatments and ways in which advances in medical technology can address these challenges.