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Hybrid Light and Sound Imaging System Wins NSF Grant

A University of Texas at Arlington bioengineer has received a National Science Foundation grant to use light and sound to produce an accurate image of a patient’s deep tissue.

Baohong Yuan, an assistant professor of bioengineering, received a $407,163 NSF Early Career Development grant for his hybrid imaging system, which overcomes the challenge of getting accurate images in deep tissue.

Current methods to analyze tissue more than a centimeter beneath the skin involve either performing a biopsy and assessing the sample using light microscopic imaging, or using a noninvasive imaging method. Although the biopsy method provides reliable results, it is invasive and time- and labor-intensive.

Imaging methods, on the other hand, allow physicians to quickly and easily evaluate intact tissue, but the images become fuzzy in deep tissue, Yuan said.

"If you use light to take a picture of deep tissue, the light is dispersed,” he said. “But if you use sound to control the light, you can get an accurate picture of what is within the deep tissue.”

Although biopsies would still be more accurate, Yuan said his method would give physicians an alternative to the surgical procedure when they need a deep-tissue image.

“Compared with light microscopy, in my process, you’ll sacrifice resolution a little bit to get more depth portrayed in the image,” said Yuan, who joined the UT Arlington College of Engineering in 2010.

Yuan’s tool could help physicians track whether tumors in cancer patients have shrunk during treatment, or detect scar tissue and assess how deep it runs before performing an operation.

“Imagine doctors who could use a microscope that probes a few centimeters beneath the skin of patients without making an incision,” said Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the College of Engineering. “Dr. Yuan’s research has a chance to make an impact in health care.”

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