Recognizing a need for wider access to the technology, researchers at Vanderbilt University developed a benchtop pre-clinical focused ultrasound (FUS) system and have made the “Do It Yourself” instructions available for free on their website.
With 18 different mechanisms of action, FUS is evolving into a multifaceted platform tool that can be used to deliver drugs, disrupt the blood-brain barrier, enhance immunotherapy, and more. Despite seeing increased research interest in the field, Charles Caskey, PhD, and Will Grissom, PhD, at Vanderbilt University’s Institute of Imaging Science observed that access to FUS equipment was limited because of its technically difficult configuration and relatively low number of commercial machines installed worldwide.
To address this problem and help other researchers and clinicians who are interested in studying the technology, these scientists worked with their colleagues in Biomedical Engineering and Computational and Physical Biology to design and publish “Do It Yourself (DIY)” hardware blueprints and open-source software. Now other researchers can build their own systems to conduct pre-clinical MR-guided FUS studies.
“The lack of well-described, accessible, pre-clinical focused ultrasound systems limits progress and decreases repeatability of new developments,” said Dr. Caskey. “Our open-source system can deliver repeatable, precise, and quantifiable thermal and mechanical focused ultrasound over an extended period in small animals .”
When built and in operation, Vanderbilt’s DIY system—with its hardware instructions and downloadable software—allows fine control over FUS-induced temperature rise in a small animal model. It includes MR temperature feedback and closed-loop control of each sonication. The Solidworks hardware drawings and software can be used on any small animal MRI system and are available on GitHub and on the VUIIS website.
Future additions to the software will improve temporal resolution and expand the open source effort to other platforms. “Although the DIY pre-clinical system is basic when compared to commercial options, the availability of a robust, cost-effective, MRgFUS system will lower the barrier for the increasing number of cross-disciplinary researchers who wish to enter this rapidly evolving field,” said Grissom.
Open-Source Small-Animal MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound System was first presented at the 2015 International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) meeting and has recently been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.
Heavily based in engineering, the Vanderbilt focused ultrasound group has developed the tools and team to design hardware, write software, create cross-disciplinary research projects, and explore multiple indications. With projects in place to study neuromodulation, whole brain temperature mapping, breast cancer immunomodulation, pancreatic cancer, and uterine fibroids, this world class research facility is quickly becoming one of the prominent fixtures in the field.