Sarah J. Nelson, Ph.D.
- Margaret Hart Surbeck Distinguished Professor, Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging
- Co-Chair, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences
- Director, Center for Non-Invasive Imaging and Metabolomics (CNIM) and the Surbeck Laboratory of Advanced Imaging
Our research program is focused on the development of techniques for acquisition, reconstruction, and quantitative analysis of Magnetic Resonance (MR) imaging and spectral data with the goal of improving the sensitivity and specificity of the data obtained for characterizing human disease, selecting therapy, and monitoring novel treatment paradigms. There are several different approaches to expanding the capabilities of MR. These include increasing the strength of the main magnetic field, improving the gradient and rf hardware capabilities, injecting hyperpolarized C13 labeled agents that dramatically increase the magnitude of the signals obtained from the resulting metabolic processes, and by integrating different types of anatomic, physiological, and metabolic imaging information. All four of these approaches are being pursued as part of the collaborative research in the Surbeck Laboratory for Advanced Imaging and provide number of challenges in terms of the design and optimization of hardware and software components.
As the overall objective is to contribute to the understanding of normal physiology and elucidating the underlying biological mechanisms of disease progression, understanding the biological basis of different diseases and issues that are important for the management of individual patients are critical factors to be considered. Translating these needs into bioengineering problems involves the integration of the underlying principles of MR physics with the design of new algorithms for reconstruction, post-processing and quantitative interpretation of the resulting multi-dimensional and multi-faceted imaging data. The students and fellows in our research group come from a wide variety of different backgrounds with expertise in mathematics, physics, computer analysis, biology, and chemistry. The focus for their research falls into two categories: technological development and translation into patient studies.
The automatic slice-selected 3D MRSI can cover almost the whole brain volume, by placing the saturation bands to precisely approximate the shape of the scull, while leaving as much as possible of the brain tissue inside the volume unsuppressed. The lines with the same pattern represent parallel sat bands that are created with a single RF pulse.
A metabolite map and sample spectra (long-echo and short-echo) from a healthy volunteer, acquired using automatically-prescribed slice-selected 3D MRSI. The acquisition covered most of the brain volume, while maintaining the high quality of spectral data.