Jeroen Tromp: Medical imaging using methods from geosciences

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Invention: Medical imaging using methods from geosciences

Inventor: Jeroen Tromp, the Blair Professor of Geology and professor of geosciences and applied and computational mathematics

This new technology transforms traditional ultrasound images into three-dimensional images that could improve the diagnosis of tumors, osteoporosis and other disorders. It combines recent advances in computational power with techniques originally developed for the study of earthquakes and subterranean structures.

A geoscientist by training, Jeroen Tromp has pioneered methods for mapping the subterranean world using naturally occurring seismic waves, the same waves caused by earthquakes. The waves speed up when they pass through a solid structure and slow down when they travel through underground pockets of magma. In the past several years, Tromp and his team have applied new computational methods to extract as much information as possible from seismic waves.

Now they are applying the same techniques to ultrasonic waves, which share many of the same characteristics. Today’s ultrasound imaging devices work by sending sound waves through the body and constructing an image from the waves that bounce off internal structures.

With Tromp’s technique, the researchers first model the sound waves traveling through the body. Then, a computer algorithm compares these modeled waves to the measured waves, identifies discrepancies between the model and the real waves, and improves the model accordingly.

The resulting computer-enhanced model contains far more information about the imaged body structure than does traditional ultrasound, and can provide clinicians with detailed images that are comparable to more expensive techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at a fraction of the cost.

Team members: Etienne Bachmann and Ryan Modrak, postdoctoral research associates in the Department of Geosciences

Collaborators: Greg Davies, graduate student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Daniel Steingart, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

Development status: Patent protection is pending. Princeton is seeking outside interest for further development of this technology.

Funding source: Princeton University’s Eric and Wendy Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund