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Thread: New Imaging Techniques

  1. #1
    Senior Member Jeff's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Argao, Cebu, Philippines

    New Imaging Techniques

    Dr. Young - Is there anything on the horizon that will allow us to see detail of the spinal cord down to the axon level?

    There's an xray vision device coming out of CenSSIS:

    And also the new Keck Microscope being developed:

    The Keck 3D Fusion Microscope will allow three-dimensional imaging of biological specimens on a single platform using five different cutting-edge imaging technologies. These include novel imaging technologies being developed at Northeastern under the auspices of CenSSIS, the Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) - one of 19 in the country (see Two initial biological applications of the Keck 3D Fusion Microscope will focus on the key developmental processes that occur in vertebrate animals.

    The long-range goal is to develop a new paradigm of three-dimensional biological imaging by borrowing from the engineering community and CenSSIS the techniques of inverse scattering, image processing, three-dimensional imaging and visualization. These imaging data sets will be combined with new advances in genetics and DNA sequencing to give a more complete picture of physiological changes that occur during the process of growth and differentiation. This instrument will support a potentially wide-range of future applications. For example, the Keck 3DFM may prove helpful in efforts to distinguish normal from cancerous cells.

    Dr. Carol Warner's group will be examining embryo viability, an issue of critical importance for couples undergoing treatment for infertility. Since the first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) was born in 1978, about one million IVF babies have been born. However, this represents only about a 25 percent success rate. A major obstacle to increasing the success rate of IVF is the inability to recognize healthy embryos.

    The Keck 3DFM holds the promise of being able to distinguish healthy from unhealthy embryos by imaging. Moreover, multiple births, which often result in birth defects such as cerebral palsy, could potentially be avoided. Presently, to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy after IVF, three embryos are transferred back to the mother. If embryo health could be assessed by imaging,, one embryo could be transferred eliminating the devastating consequences of multiple births and increasing the chances of pregnancy success.

    The second biological application proposed to the Keck Foundation is by Dr. Donald O'Malley's group. His group will be examining the biology of neural stem cells in zebrafish embryos to investigate developmental processes relevant to the treatment of spinal cord injuries. "The combination of instruments on the Keck Microscope will allow me to look into the developing brain of a zebrafish embryo and directly observe the behavior of neural stem cells as they begin to generate different components of the nervous system," says O'Malley. "My project specifically focuses on those nerve cells that establish connections between the brain and the spinal cord."

    The affiliation of this instrument with CenSSIS provides a unique environment for biological research because CenSSIS is developing a unified, multidisciplinary approach combining expertise in wave physics, sensor engineering, image processing, and inverse scattering with rigorous performance testing. The goal is to create new sensing system prototypes, with applications not only looking into biological specimens, but also looking underground, undersea and inside the body. Expertise from these seemingly different fields will be brought to bear on images from the microscope, and these fields will benefit from the knowledge gained with the microscope. As an example, one of the key technologies of the microscope is derived from the field of remote sensing.

    This project will also benefit and contribute to research at other institutions. CenSSIS is a multi-university endeavor including Core Academic Partners Boston University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, and important strategic affiliates in Brigham and Women's Hospital, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

    The W. M. Keck Foundation is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. Established in 1954 by the late William Myron Keck, founder of The Superior Oil Company, the Foundation's grant-making is focused primarily on the areas of breakthrough medical research, science, and engineering. The Foundation also maintains a program for liberal arts colleges and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support in the areas of civic and community services, health care and hospitals, pre-collegiate education, and the arts.

    ~See you at the SCIWire-used-to-be-paralyzed Reunion ~

  2. #2

    The microscope that Keck funded is a nice one and important for basic science. It would indeed be nice if we could see cellular structures in a walking rat. One day, we will probably be able to do what they have been doing on Star Trek for years... a small handheld device that can be pointed at a person and reads out what is wrong on a microscopic level.

    By the way, the microscope technology being funded by the Keck Foundation is not new. For example, there is a group at Rutgers that has been applying multiphoton confocal laser scanning microscopy on the surface of brains of living animals to visualize neurons. It is a lot of work and rather invasive, however. It also "sees" structures only on the surface, as far as the light can penetrate. We also use canning confocal microscopy to visualize 3D cells in the spinal cord and tissue culture. They are using it to look at embryos.

    What about the possibility of MRI and CT-scans improving in resolution? I think that CT scans (x-rays) will continue to improve in resolution and should be able to scan bony structures with 0.01 mm resolution. However, the limit on MR resolution is now limited by the strength of the magnets required to polarize the molecules in the brain. At the present, most clinical magnets are 1.5-2.0 Tesla. There are, I believe, a number of 4.5 Tesla magnet human imager (for example, at NIH) which can see down to 0.1 mm which is getting close but not at the 0.01 mm size of axons.

    As an aside, please understand how powerful a 5.4 Tesla magnet is. A 20-gauss magnet can tear the keys out of your pocket. One tesla is a million gauss. The 20-guass field of a 4.5 Tesla magnet is about 50 feet. During the scanning process, one cannot have any moving metallic object within the 20-gauss field of the magnet. One would need quite a significant volume of isolated space to house such a scanner. Such magnets are made of superconductors that must be cooled to low temperatures in order to function. Due to the development of higher temperature superconductors, the magnets are getting smaller and more efficient. Likewise, it may be possible to increase the sensitivity of the detectors and antennas by using superconductor technology. Yes, in the next few years, higher resolution imaging technology will become available. Unfortunately, such technology will be likely be expensive, at least at the beginning.


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