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Deep vision

Improved diagnostic tool is result of medical, engineering collaboration

Dartmouth physicians and engineers are collaborating to test new imaging techniques to find breast abnormalities, including cancer. Results from their latest study, which involved magnetic resonance-guided, near-infrared imaging, appear in the May 22 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"This paper is the culmination of five years of work to build a completely new type of imaging system, which integrates magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and near-infrared imaging (NIR)," says Brian Pogue, associate professor of engineering and one of the authors of the study.

Brian Pogue, Subhadra Srivivasan, and John Weaver
From left: Brian Pogue, associate professor of engineering (left) and study coauthors Subhadra Srinivasan, Thayer School research associate, and John Weaver, professor of radiology at Dartmouth Medical School.

He explains that because infrared light is sensitive to blood, researchers can locate and quantify regions of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin by sending infrared light through breast tissue with a fiber optic array. This might help detect early tumor growth and characterize the stage of a tumor by learning about its vascular and cellular makeup.

"The new integrated system allows us to quantify the hemoglobin, water, and scattering values of the tissues with NIR, while using the high resolution of MRI," says Pogue. "For breast imaging, this new system means that we will be able to enhance the information that MRI provides by allowing us to image breast tumors with a completely different mechanism of contrast, namely hemoglobin, oxygen saturation, water, and optical scattering."

Pogue is part of an interdisciplinary team that includes researchers from Thayer School of Engineering and Dartmouth Medical School (DMS), working with experts at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the Department of Radiology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC). The group is developing and testing imaging techniques to learn about breast tissue structure and behavior.

The study of 11 healthy women offers baseline data of this new technique. The system was developed in lab space at DHMC through shared research with DMS. According to Pogue, this approach to long-range technology development and collaboration is unique, and Thayer and DMS have a special relationship that allows this to happen easily. Shared lab space and shared indirect costs allow close collaborations between engineering researchers and medical doctors.

Pogue's coauthors include Ben Brooksby, Shudong Jiang, Hamid Dehghani, Subhadra Srinivasan, Christine Kogel, Tor Tosteson, John Weaver, Steven Poplack, and Keith Paulson, all associated with Thayer, DMS, or DHMC. Support for this study came from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and recent continuing support has come through an NCI Program Project grant directed by Professor of Engineering Keith Paulsen.

By SUSAN KNAPP

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Last Updated: 12/17/08