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Ohio State engineers aim to advance stroke imaging with low-cost, portable technology

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New research from The Ohio State University College of Engineering could improve the diagnosis and treatment of stroke, which occurs in the United States every 40 seconds.

Asimina Kiourti headshot
Professor Asimina Kiourti

Fast diagnosis and treatment of strokes can increase survival and decrease disability rates, but currently they can only be identified and monitored in a hospital with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan. These scans have high resolution but are too large for mobile or bedside imaging.

Asimina Kiourti, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, leads a multidisciplinary team that received a three-year, $460,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore expanding the limits of microwave imaging to improve the resolution of brain scans before a patient arrives to the hospital. Specifically, the researchers are investigating how microwave tomography (MWT) can image the brain to develop a low-cost, portable MWT scanning device for quicker stroke diagnoses outside of a medical facility.

“The ability to differentiate between ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes as well as to assess the stroke location and size in the ambulance or on-site has the great potential to improve outcomes and reduce mortality,” said Kiourti, faculty affiliate of the ElectroScience Laboratory (ESL) and the Chronic Brain Injury program.

The research team includes co-principal investigators Katelyn Swindle-Reilly, associate professor of biomedical and chemical engineering; Golrokh Mirzaei, associate professor of computer science and engineering; and Md Asiful Islam, a visiting scholar at ESL and associate professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). Dr. Yousef Hannawi, associate professor of neurology and faculty affiliate of the Chronic Brain Injury program, is a collaborator on the project.

To combine the high-resolution advantage of CT scans and the mobility of MWT, the team hopes to expand the limits of MWT resolution. MWT is a promising imaging method because it is portable and low-cost, but its poor imaging resolution limits its clinical use.

To achieve comparable image resolution to MRIs or CT scans, MWT measurements must be post-processed through novel methods. A machine learning framework will predict data that would have been collected by a CT scanner from different angles around a patient. The MWT imaging system will also include highly efficient antennas to emit microwaves with custom-designed hydrogels that mimic the properties of tissues to ensure the high resolution of the reconstructed images.

3 graphics of reconstructed imaging techniques
The team is working to expand the limits of microwave tomography imaging for mobile diagnostic use.

The collaborative project combines Swindle-Reilly’s expertise in hydrogels and polymeric biomaterials with Kiourti's bio-electromagnetics, antennas and microwave imaging expertise. Mirzaei is an expert in machine learning for medical applications and Islam will consult on tomographic imaging and deep learning. Dr. Hannawi will provide feedback on stroke neuroimaging.

This research will illuminate opportunities for microwave imaging devices that enable unprecedented performance in terms of resolution while also being non-ionizing, compact and low-cost.

“We see stroke diagnosis is the first step using this technology,” said Kiourti, “We believe the findings could be game-changing for other home-based and clinical applications in the future, like cancer diagnostics or joint imaging.”