National Institutes of Health

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

2015 Annual Report of the Division of Intramural Research

Program on Pediatric Imaging and Tissue Sciences

Director: Peter J. Basser, PhD

The Program on Pediatric Imaging and Tissue Sciences (PPITS) was created in January, 2010, to address critical, unmet needs in Pediatric Radiology, particularly Pediatric Neuroradiology. The unique Program sponsors a broad range of basic, applied, and translationally oriented research aimed at improving the assessment of normal development and at screening, diagnosis, and prognosis of diseases, disorders, or disabilities common in the pediatric population. To this end, PPITS scientists invent, develop, and apply non-invasive imaging methods and modalities to produce quantitative imaging biomarkers that can sensitively and selectively measure key features of target tissues or organs. To achieve such translational goals, PPITS supports and performs a wide array of basic and applied research in tissue sciences, which aim to identify and characterize potentially salient quantitative biomarkers, as well as in the physical, mathematical, and imaging sciences to provide a conceptual framework for measuring such biomarkers.

The Section on Tissue Biophysics and Biomimetics (STBB), headed by Peter Basser, strives to understand fundamental relationships between functional properties of soft tissues and their structure in vivo, in "engineered" tissue constructs, and in tissue analogs (e.g., polymer gels). Structure/function relationships are studied in an integrative fashion, primarily by probing key interactions and processes over a wide range of length and time scales, as well as by developing and studying relevant biological, mathematical, physical, and computational models and model systems that illuminate such relationships. Achievements include the development of a method based on anomalous X-ray scattering to measure the ion distribution around charged biopolymer molecules and construction of a tissue micro-osmometer that permits continuous monitoring of water uptake of small specimens. The STBB also developed an experimental method to map the elastic properties of tissues and cells at a micron scale. These activities support and buttress STBB's initiatives to invent, develop, and translate novel quantitative in vivo methods for imaging tissues and organs, in particular, new quantitative MRI methodologies to probe tissue microstructure and architectural organization in the brain and, increasingly, in other soft tissues. Recent examples include non-invasive MRI methods to measure and map the diameter distribution of axons within white matter pathways and to parcellate the cerebral cortex in vivo, based on local microstructural features. The STBB is involved in several pre-clinical, clinical, and translational studies intended to migrate promising quantitative imaging biomarkers from "bench to bedside."

The Section on Analytical and Functional Biophotonics (SAFB), headed by Amir Gandjbakhche, devises quantitative biophotonics imaging technologies and methodologies, translating benchtop studies to the bedside. Research in the Section explores endogenous (scattering and absorption) and exogenous (using fluorescence probes) optical contrast mechanisms to characterize abnormal development and function in tissues. The SAFB is using near infrared spectroscopy and imaging to assess biomarkers for a wide range of brain development abnormalities and injuries, specifically, but not limited to, cognitive and behavioral disorders. The Section is also involved in clinical and preclinical studies aimed at characterizing the growth and development of various abnormal tissues and monitoring the efficacy of treatment, using optical methods such as fluorescence and multi-spectral imaging.

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