Biomedical Imaging: It Gets Better with Time

Originally published March 4, 2013 by Jen Ambrose

Some things get better with time. Take photoacoustic tomography (PAT), for example. In its 3-D edition, this imaging technology could paint a portrait of a brain. Add a fourth dimension – or, time – and you can use it to locate the focus of an epileptic seizure as it is taking place in that same brain. In 3-D, PAT could detect a tumor. In 4-D, it can monitor the temperature of nearby healthy tissue as you strategically destroy that tumor with a laser beam. And while 3-D imaging could help you guide a needle past metal implant and bone, 4-D PAT can confirm if injected medicines have reached their targeted cells.

It took time for Dr. Huabei Jiang and his team of researchers to develop the instrumentation and above-mentioned applications of PAT. Time and funding. Jiang has been head of the Biomedical Optics Lab in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering since it opened its doors in 2005. He started his research in PAT a decade before that.

“The Pruitt Family endowment has provided flexibility for me to explore new research ideas, and to get started on projects. Then when additional funding is secured, we can really focus on a particular area,” Dr. Jiang said.

The Department of Defense (DOD) funded Jiang’s latest round of research involving epilepsy and neural mapping using 4-D PAT. The DOD grant included the cost of all equipment, which was constructed within the lab by the 15 members of Jiang’s team.

Dr. Jiang has many times emerged with advances in the imaging field, including the invention of quantitative photoacoustic tomography (qPAT). His most recent article, 4-D Photoacoustic Tomography, discusses several applications of 4-D PAT and was published in Nature on January 23, 2013.