Ultrasound and Elasticity Imaging Lab

The Ultrasound and Elasticity Imaging Laboratory (UEIL), directed by Dr. Elisa Konofagou, aims at the development of novel techniques associated with ultrasound imaging and therapy. There are two main areas investigated: 1) elasticity imaging, i.e., imaging of mechanical responses and properties of tissues during deformation (external, internal or intrinsic) and 2) monitoring and novel uses of focused ultrasound therapy.

Myocardial Elastography, an ultrasound-based elasticity imaging technique developed by the lab, is designed for measurement of displacements and strains based on the natural contraction of the myocardium. The objective of the technique is to detect cardiovascular disease early through measurements of the altered mechanical properties of the heart muscle. Our current study focuses on verifying the Myocardial Elastography technique in a clinical setting.

The heart is an electromechanical pump that requires to first be electrically activated in order to contract. In the normal heart, action potentials are spontaneously generated and propagate through a specialized conduction system before reaching the cardiac muscle. The depolarization of a cardiac muscle cell then triggers contraction within milliseconds. Electromechanical Wave Imaging (EWI) is an ultrasound-based technology which can noninvasively map the transient electromechanical activity at very high temporal resolution, and thus the activation sequence of the entire heart. EWI could constitute a unique tool for screening as well as diagnosis and treatment monitoring of arrhythmia and heart failure.

Pulse Wave Imaging (PWI) is an ultrasound-based method that allows for visualization of the pulse wave propagation and estimation of the elastic properties of large arteries. This non-invasive method is particularly interesting for diagnosis and characterization of both systemic and localized vascular diseases, since most of them are associated with a significant change in arterial stiffness.

Harmonic motion imaging (HMI) induces dynamic tissue vibrations internally for tissue elasticity characterization. HMI can monitor changes in tissue elasticity in real time during focused ultrasound surgery (FUS). Thus, physicians can stop the FUS treatment when it is necessary. The advantages of this technique are detecting cancerous tissues early and treating them non-invasively.

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) impedes entry of virtually all molecules from blood capillaries to brain tissue; rendering thus potent neurologically active substances and drugs ineffective, simply because they cannot be delivered to where they are most needed. The purpose of this project is to understand the mechanism, ensure the safety and efficacy, and optimize the methods of BBB opening using FUS.

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