The EPR Center has a New Home
Our new address is:
48 Lafayette Street
Lebanon, NH 03766
The EPR Center
The Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) Center for the Study of Viable Systems is home to the world's first diagnostic EPR dosimetry system in development down an FDA regulatory pathway for use in radiological or nuclear mass casualty scenarios. For over twenty years, the EPR Center has been a world leader in the development of biological and clinical applications for EPR spectroscopy, and plays a key role in international EPR research education and resource sharing. The Center operates several laboratories, including an instrument-development facility at the Hanover campus, a small-animal research area within the NCCC (Rubin 6), and a clinical EPR facility in the Department of Radiation Oncology (Rubin 2). Directed since its inception in 1992 by Dr. Harold Swartz, the EPR Center staff includes two Associate Directors (Dr.'s Ben Williams and Ann Flood) more than thirty other fulltime individuals, many with their own additional research initiatives and faculty appointments. The EPR Center has extensive collaborations with clinical and basic science faculty at Dartmouth including Radiation Oncology, Hematology, Hyperbaric Medicine, ENT, Radiology, Community and Family Medicine, Chemistry, and Engineering. There also are ongoing extensive collaborations with several US government agencies and leading academic institutions in the USA, Canada, Belgium, France, Israel, Russia, Poland, and Japan.
In Vivo EPR Programs
EPR spectroscopy is an experimental technique for studying chemical species that have one or more unpaired electrons, such as organic and inorganic free radicals or inorganic complexes possessing a transition metal ion. The basic physical concepts of EPR are analogous to those of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and MRI, but it is electron spins that are excited instead of spins of atomic nuclei. A number of unique capabilities for the measurement of physiologic parameters are available using EPR, including direct measurement of tissue pO2 through a repeatable non-invasive measurement procedure and the measurement of endogenous free-radical species.
In vivo EPR oximetry, the central research activity of Dr. Swartz's EPR lab since its inception in 1992, has a number of potentially valuable clinical applications. By means of accurate pO2 detection, EPR can be used to monitor oxygen level in a variety of tissue types. In tumors, hypoxia is associated with angiogenesis as well as with resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapy; accurate assessment of changes in tumor pO2 can be used in cancer detection and staging, and in monitoring of therapeutic efficacy. Other types of vascular pathology are also associated with decreased tissue-oxygen levels, such as the ischemia caused by peripheral vascular disease in diabetic patients and wound healing following radiation damage to normal tissues. EPR oximetry could provide information critical for effective clinical management of these and other oxygen-dependent pathologies and for the assessment of novel therapeutic measures.
Recently, the Center has focused on the development of radiation biodosimetry techniques and devices. In a disaster scenario involving the accidental or hostile release of significant levels of ionizing radiation, public health officials remain without effective portable means of determining exposure levels in affected individuals, jeopardizing the ability to carry out appropriate triage strategies. During irradiation, free radicals are created in biologic tissues in proportion to the absorbed dose. In certain tissues, such as tooth enamel, bone, and nails, these radicals remain in a stable state following irradiation and their concentration can be quantitatively measured using EPR to estimate the dose. The Center has received major funding from a number of NIH and DoD sources, including the NIH Centers for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation (CMCR) program and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In 2010 the EPR Center received a new $16.6 million five-year NIH grant for dosimetry research as one of 7 currently funded CMCR Centers.
In 2011 the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) awarded a contract to Dartmouth Medical School for the development of a non-invasive portable screening device that uses EPR technology to measure changes in teeth after exposure to ionizing radiation. The contract consists of an 18 month base contract period worth $6,868,544 and three options which, if exercised, could total $28,948,665. The objective of this BARDA-funded project is to develop a FDA-cleared biodosimetry screening device available for use in the event of a large-scale radiological or nuclear incident involving mass exposure to life-threatening ionizing radiation doses. Rapid and accurate dose assessments are necessary in order to make appropriate triage and treatment decisions to save lives.
During the contract period, the EPR system will be improved for taking relatively non-invasive dose measurements of living teeth in the mouth of potential victims. Improvements will leverage the advances of existing EPR techniques first developed under the CMCR grant mechanism. The ultimate goal of the BARDA project is to develop necessary data and information for submission of a pre-marketing application to obtain FDA regulatory approval. Collaborating with Dartmouth on the BARDA contract are General Electric Company, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The Medical College of Wisconsin, The Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland), and Hokkaido University (Sapporo, Japan).