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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Kenny Chou, Bioengineering & Electrical Engineering, 2012-13 WRFF

Kenny ChouMedical imaging and minimally invasive modalities had always been an interest of mine. Thinking I'd eventually go into medical school, I started my undergraduate career in Bioengineering. After exposure to the biomedical instrumentation and other technology-orientated classes I realized that I'm more interested in the technology aspect of medicine and decided to pursue a second major in Electrical Engineering. I joined the Human Photonics Lab (HPL) in the summer of 2010 for the CRANE Aerospace sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). My first project was to code an image processing operation in a parallel-computing language called the Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA), and it introduced me to computational-based research, which I begin to love. My current project is also image processing oriented, and involves processing, registration, and reconstruction of 3D Optical Projection Tomography Microscopy (OPTM) images for tissue biopsy inspection. This project aims to open a new field in biopsy and provide new ways to improve pre-cancer screening, especially for the brain, thyroid, and pancreas. The next project on my agenda is to incorporate semiconductor quantum dots to the OPTM specimen to conduct dual-mode (fluorescence and optical) imaging. 3D dual mode imaging allows us to study tissue morphology and the presence of select biomarkers simultaneously, which has the potential to further improve sensitivity and specificity in cancer detection. After graduation, I plan to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering with a focus on medical instrumentations before working in that same industry. I am extremely grateful for the generous support from Washington Research Foundation as it allows me to focus on my research and further motivates me to pursue a career in biomedical technologies.

Mentor: Eric Seibel, Mechanical Engineering

Project Title: Dual-Mode 3D Multi-Cellular Imaging with Optical Projection Tomography Microscopy

Abstract: Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. While fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) is a common minimally-invasive method for diagnosing many types of cancer, it is not 100% reliable. It is necessary to make biopsies more accurate, since their results determine subsequent patient treatment and management. Unlike conventional three-dimensional (3D) imaging methods, Optical Projection Tomography Microscopy (OPTM) is a microscopic imaging method that can produce high resolution 3D images of single-cellular specimens stained with hematoxylin and eosin dyes. Since 3D images can present biological structures in their original architecture, it has permitted clinicians to increase the diagnostic accuracy in adenocarcinoma by threefold, compared to its 2D imaging counterparts. OPTM has also been demonstrated to perform dual-mode (fluorescence and absorption) 3D imaging of single cells. Unfortunately, biopsy samples are rarely single, isolated cells. My previous work, supported by the Washington Research Foundation, demonstrated the feasibility of multi-cellular 3D imaging with OPTM. This project aims to extend the functionality of OPTM to perform multi-cellular imaging in dual-mode and to explore entire FNAB samples in 3D. Dual-mode multi-cellular imaging with OPTM has not been accomplished due to the relatively long imaging time, which causes photo-bleaching of organic fluorophores. This project explores a solution by utilizing semiconductor quantum dots as fluorescent tags to probe for the presence of Her2+ breast cancer cells. This has the potential to reduce sampling error, to prevent the need to isolate single cells for imaging, and to detect the presence of specific molecular biomarkers. Combined with structural information obtained in absorption mode imaging, this imaging method can potentially further improve sensitivity and specificity of FNABs. In the future, dual-mode imaging of tissues can contribute to the understanding of cancer growth and development by relating the presence of specific biomarkers directly to its surrounding tissue architecture.