What the researchers say
Fascinated by medical imaging
An interview with Rolf A. Heckemann, Researcher and Professor of Medical Imaging and Image Analysis, who has recently joined MedTech West.
Professor Rolf Heckemann is fascinated by medical imaging and particularly its power to reveal health or disease. As his expertise in imaging developed, so too did the realization that image interpretation is difficult and that a diagnosis can be variable depending on the subjective view of the person reviewing the images.
For example, doctors can only make a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease when the patient has died and a pathologist performs an autopsy of the brain. Criteria for determining whether a living person has Alzheimer’s disease are much less certain: in early stages, the signs, the symptoms, and even the findings on magnetic resonance (MR) imaging can be indistinguishable from those of other diseases and normal ageing. In practice, today’s methods often require observing the patient over a period of months. Having to wait this long causes uncertainty and distress for both the patient and his or her relatives. This time consuming process is a result of the technical limitations of today’s diagnostic methods.
– What I hope to accomplish at MedTech West is to create routine diagnostic tools that will translate the benefits of objective image analysis into everyday clinical practice, says Rolf and continues
– This would mean that the patient would receive their diagnosis more quickly, more directly, and with more certainty.
As part of this endeavor, Rolf has previously developed MAPER (multi-atlas propagation with enhanced registration), an automatic method for anatomically segmenting MR images of the human brain. MAPER was created in collaboration with several other scientists with whom Rolf worked at Imperial College London and at the Neurodis Foundation, Lyon, France.
– MAPER can be used to detect subtle changes in the sizes of the individual structures that together constitute the brain. In combination, these measurements reveal patterns or signatures that will in the future help to characterize a disease, to predict an individual’s outcome, and to monitor the effect of treatments.
Additionally, MAPER aids in the analysis of images that show the function (fMRI, PET) or the connectivity (DTI) of the brain. This makes MAPER interesting for scientists who are studying how the brain works.
– A key factor for me in deciding to join MedTech West is the opportunity to foster the interaction between different disciplines, especially clinical medicine and engineering, says Rolf.
He believes that the role will provide significant opportunities for collaboration within MedTech West and also with the wider Swedish scientific community.
– For me, research has been a wonderful experience and it is something I want to share with others, by helping them to create new knowledge and supporting them so that they, too, feel that their work will make a true difference.
Written by: Sofia Lindqvist
Looking to understand the brain
An interview with Justin F Schneiderman, PhD and assistant professor at MedTech West.
To understand the brain better would not only help us find out more about ourselves in a psychological or a neuro-scientific way, it would help us understand what goes wrong and how the brain is changing when you have something like Alzheimer’s disease.
Justin Schneiderman, assistant professor at MedTech West, hails from a group of researchers at MC2 at Chalmers. Together they are developing a technique to detect diseases in the brain of an early stage to prevent or at least minimize the negative consequences of a given disease. They are using High-Tc SQUIDS, a technology that simplifies cooling requirements, which enables getting closer to the head in search of signals in the brain than standard MEG systems with Low- Tc SQUIDS.
Before starting at MedTech West, Justin and his colleague Fredrik Öisjöen used the technology to look for brain signals that were already well understood on the clinical side. That of course is interesting from a verification point of view but isn’t all that helpful in achieving what they had set out to do – understand the brain better with High-Tc SQUIDS.
– We just decided that we were going to measure some brain activity. We had obviously never done anything like that before so we started to look in textbooks on how to do it.
It wasn’t until Justin got hired at MedTech West that he met clinicians that not only helped out with their expertise but also were curious enough to come to the lab and help them with the measurements.
Justin explains that the very different perspective that medical and clinical people bring was something that they really lacked, so before MedTech West it was more or less an engineering problem for them.
– MedTech West has expanded our network and helped us collaborate with people with whom we would otherwise not have been in contact. That has helped the development of our projects immensely.
When Justin and Fredrik started working with the clinicians Professor Mikael Elam at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg and Anders Hedström at the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology and Rehabilitation at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, they could identify things that were interesting and that hadn’t been seen before.
– The technique is not only useful but also exciting because it has the capability to bring new information and to teach us new things about the brain that had otherwise been impossible to see.
Even though the project is presently at an exploratory phase, Justin and his colleagues at MC2 recently had some very exciting results from brain recordings with the High-Tc SQUIDS. At the time of this writing, there are no other groups actively working in the are of High-Tc SQUID-based MEG. Justin has just published a paper on the sensor technology that will be presented in Portland, Oregon in October 2012.
To read more about Justin’s projects go to Sensor technologies
Written by: Lisa Snäll