Novel Approach for Treating the Brain Awarded $2.4 Million Research Grant


Zhen XuFocused ultrasound researchers at the University of Michigan have been awarded a four-year, $2.4M grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), a part of the National Institutes of Health. In “Transcranial Magnetic Resonance–guided Histotripsy (tcMRgHt),” Zhen Xu, PhD, and her research team plan to study the capabilities of using histotripsy for brain applications. Histotripsy is a form of focused ultrasound that mechanically destroys tissue without heat.

The goal of this proposal is to develop the first integrated tcMRgHt system for treatment of brain tumors. Transcranial magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound (tcMRgFUS) is used clinically to treat essential tremor and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease, with additional clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease and brain cancer. However, currently, the location and volume of tissue that can be thermally ablated with tcMRgFUS is limited.

We hypothesize that because tcMRgHt is based on mechanical ablation through cavitation, it can overcome the treatment location and volume limitations of tcMRgFUS and provide a noninvasive ablation technique to improve the treatment of brain tumors.

“Our preliminary data show that histotripsy applied through excised human skulls was used to ablate a wide range of locations and brain volumes inside the skull, while keeping the temperature increase in the skull under 4°C,” said Dr. Xu. “With this grant, we will be able to develop the first integrated tcMRgHt system that can noninvasively ablate a wide range of locations and volumes in the brain and be validated in human cadavers. If successful, we may one day have the ability to ablate brain tumors and other brain diseases noninvasively in a way that transforms neurosurgery.”

Dr. Xu is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Graduate Education in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Associate Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Transactions of Ultrasonics, Ferroelectronics, and Frequency Control (UFFC), an IEEE UFFC elected member, a Board member of the International Society for Therapeutic Ultrasound (ISTU), and was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).

NIBIB’s mission is to improve health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies. It is committed to integrating the physical and engineering sciences with the life sciences to advance basic research and medical care.