Developing and applying MRI methods for quantification of pathological changes in neurodegeneration diseases
My primary research interest is developing and applying MRI methods for quantification of pathological changes in neurodegeneration diseases. Axon injury/loss, demyelination, and inflammation are commonly coexisting pathologies in lesions of neurodegeneration diseases. The roles that individual pathological processes play in disease progression remain to be defined. Inflammation not only plays a crucial role in pathogenesis , it also interferes with measurement of image biomarkers of axon/myelin integrity. An imaging modality able to effectively detect, differentiate and individually quantify inflammation, demyelination and axon injury/loss, would not only facilitate the understanding of the pathophysiology underlying disease progression, but also aid the assessment of potential treatments at the clinical trial and individual level. To achieve this goal, I developed a novel diffusion MRI method, diffusion basis spectrum imaging (DBSI), to discriminate and quantify the different components of pathology in the central nervous system of patients. Through its multiple-tensor modeling of diffusion weighted MRI signals, DBSI is able to resolve intra-voxel partial volume effects resulting from cerebrospinal fluid contamination, crossing-fibers, and inflammation-associated cellularity and vesogenic edema. Preclinical study strongly supported the clinical translation of DBSI to image pathophysiology substrates and assess patients’ therapeutic efficiency noninvasively.