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Tavakkoli Group - 2018 NSERC-USRA Research Project Descriptions

Project 1: Investigating the effect of acoustic pressure on neural cells and tissues toward understanding mechanisms of traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and concussions are major public health problems in modern societies. The PI (Dr. Tavakkoli) has an ongoing active research program with the St. Micheal’s hospital toward understanding mechanisms behind TBI using a novel ultrasound-based method of inducing mechanical injuries to neural cells and tissues. In this project, in the first step a neural cell culture model will be used in an in vitro study and in the second step an animal brain model (zebrafish) will be used in an in vivo study. A specialized pulsed high intensity focused ultrasound (pHIFU) system will be employed to induce controlled mechanical injuries caused by focalized acoustic pressure and to investigate the effect of various drugs that are being developed for TBI treatment. The outcomes of this research will lead to understanding of biophysical and biological mechanisms behind concussion and to development of novel more effective methods to either treat or to alleviate symptoms of concussion.

The research work will be conducted in the PI’s research laboratory located in iBEST, St. Michael’s Hospital.

Student’s Role:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive literature survey and background review pertinent to the project topic.
  2. Learn how to operate with the pHIFU system.
  3. Learn how to use in vitro cell culture and in vivo zebrafish animal models in the pHIFU experiment set up.
  4. Conduct a series of experiments of applying pHIFU pressure at different levels to neural cell culture and to zebrafish brain.
  5. In collaboration with the clinical collaborators, investigate the effect of drugs on injured cells and brain tissue.
  6. Write the research final report, prepare a conference poster or oral presentation, and participate in writing the draft of a journal manuscript.

Project 2: Measurement of soft tissue biomechanical properties using acoustic and mechanical methods

Measurement of soft tissue biomechanical properties is an important method toward detecting clinical conditions such as detection of malignant and benign cancer tumors, measuring body fat content, and evaluating muscle stiffness. In this research we plan to investigate ultrasound-based methods to evaluate soft tissue mechanical properties such as Young’s, Shear, and Bulk moduli, and Poisson ratio in different types of ex vivo soft tissue samples and tissue-mimicking gel phantoms. To this end a quantitative ultrasound elastography method will be developed and investigated. An open-architecture research ultrasound scanner (Vantage 128, Verasonics Inc., Kirkland, WA, USA) will be used to this end. A separate mechanical indentation method (MACH-1 Mechanical Testing System, Biomomentum Inc., Laval, QC, Canada) will also be used in this study as a reference method to compare the results obtained. In the final report of the project, results of the measurements will be presented as tables that include main mechanical properties of various soft tissues obtained with the mechanical and acoustic methods. The research work will be conducted in the PI’s research laboratory located in iBEST, St. Michael’s Hospital.

Student’s Role:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive literature survey and background review pertinent to the project topic.
  2. Learn how to operate with the ultrasound scanner and the mechanical indentation systems.
  3. Conduct a series of experiments to measure mechanical properties of different tissue samples using both systems.
  4. Write the research final report, prepare a conference poster or oral presentation, and participate in writing the draft of a journal manuscript.

For more info, please contact the PI:
Prof. Jahan Tavakkoli
Dept. of Physics, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Tel: 416-979-5000, Ext. 7535
Email: jtavakkoli@ryerson.ca