Imaging :: Research agreement to advance new imaging technology

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and T.I.E.S., LLC a Rochester, New York-based start-up company, have entered into a research partnership to evaluate a new technology that could ultimately represent a major advance in medical imaging.

T.I.E.S. — which stands for Tomographic Image Enhancement Systems — has patented a new image processing technology called “Image Surgery” that allows scientists and radiologists to selectively focus on a specific organ or region of the body and, as a result, create clearer and more precise side by side images. The company, which is led by two former Kodak imaging systems executives, will work with researchers in the URMC Department of Imaging Sciences to apply this technology to images from actual patients.

“We are delighted to be working with the University of Rochester Medical Center to develop this novel approach to radiological imaging,” said M. Akram Sandhu, Ph.D., CEO of T.I.E.S. “The University has a great deal of research strength and expertise in this field and we are looking forward to a very productive research partnership.”

The T.I.E.S.’s imaging technology potentially overcomes what have been significant limitations in medical tomography or three-dimensional imaging. Today’s advanced imaging technologies such as gamma cameras, CT, MRI and PET scanners reconstruct images by converting a sequence of two-dimensional images which are captured by a receptor as it rotates around the patient into a three dimensional image. While these technologies have provided doctors an invaluable view into the human body, the images often contain flaws.

Radiologist Vaseem Chengazi, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Rochester and chief technology officer of T.I.E.S. notes that scanners work very well on images that are not moving. “However, the problem in human world is that the body is dynamic and not stationary,” said Chengazi. “The body moves and breathes, the heart beats, the bladder accumulates urine, and so on. Consequently, images of these areas of the body are often marked by artifacts or distortions.”

Additionally, the clarity of a specific image often depends upon the composition of objects that are nearby. Natural objects, such as organs and bones, and man made objects, such as artificial hips or surgical clips, can interfere with the images of adjacent organs or tissue because they are in the way or, in the case of artificial objects such prosthetics, are far more dense than the surrounding tissue and can throw off a scanner’s sensitive instrumentation. These distortions can ultimately make it more difficult to spot smaller objects, such as tumors.

“Radiologists have attempted to compensate for these problems by doing faster scans and then once they have image they filter it to decrease the artifact,” said Chengazi. “But these artifacts are already ‘baked’ into the image by the process of reconstruction.”

The T.I.E.S. technology overcomes these problems by segmenting the raw data before it is converted into an image. This allows radiologists to exclude objects that are not of interest and, thereby, heighten the resolution of the remaining target image. To draw a comparison, this approach is roughly analogous to why it is more effective to make scientific observations of the sun’s corona ? or atmosphere ? during a solar eclipse when the body of the sun is obstructed.

Chengazi began to develop this method when he was a Ph.D. student at the University of London. After arriving in Rochester, Chengazi approached Umar Riaz, a computer engineer with T.I.E.S., who converted the mathematical algorithms into the software code that is the foundation of the current version of the technology.

The Image Surgery technology, which could represent a fundamentally new direction in medical tomography, has a potentially vast application in clinical care and biomedical research in fields such as cancer, musculoskeletal conditions and cardiovascular disease. Under the research agreement, the raw data from the University’s nuclear medicine gamma cameras will be run through the T.I.E.S. software so that scientists can compare it with the image generated using standard technologies. The technology is applicable to other types of scanners as well. The company plans to have its first image enhancement product for SPET (Single-Photon Emission Tomography) applications commercially available by next year.

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