Imaging Sciences Pathway Retreat - A Conference Covered

IMG_1166.JPG I and my research colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis attended the 2011 Imaging Sciences Pathway Retreat, a seminar series and student poster session event that took place at the beautiful Union Station in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The annual event focuses on groundbreaking technology and discoveries in medical imaging. The event took most of the day, and gathered researchers from diverse fields including biology, pediatrics, nuclear medicine, physics, chemistry, and engineering.

What is medical imaging? Medical imaging involves taking images of the human body and various internal organs and tissues, ideally in a non-invasive manner, for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment of abnormalities and disease. Non-invasive procedures are those that do not require insertion of needles, catheters, or other surgical operations. Ideally, medical imaging procedures provide information about anatomy and function of the inner-body environment without causing discomfort or health side effects in the patient.

Medical imaging technologies include: X-ray imaging, 3D x-ray scans (also known as CT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound imaging, and nuclear imaging technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET) which employ radioactive elements to visualize internal sites of disease such as cancerous lesions. Optical and fluorescence-based imaging techniques also exist; however, these techniques typically suffer because light as we think of light, in the visible range, does not penetrate very far through human skin and tissues. Near-infrared imaging techniques, as well as techniques that combine light and ultrasound (photo-acoustic) are helping to make optical modalities more viable for deep tissue imaging.


The vision for Imaging in medicine: “Imaging specific molecules and their interactions in space and time will be essential to understanding how genomes create cells, how cells constitute organisms, and how errant cells cause disease. The challenge for the twenty-first century is to understand how these casts of molecular characters work together to make living cells and organisms, and how such understanding can be harnessed to improve health and well-being.” – Roger Y. Tsien, Imagining Imaging’s Future, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology (2003).

Conference Opening Remarks:
“Imaging from molecule, to cell, to mouse, to man.” – Dr. G. Jost

Dr. Gilbert Jost presented the opening remarks for this retreat. Dr. Jost, M.D., who holds a medical degree from Yale Medical School, is the head of the Department of Radiology at WashU. Dr. Jost commented, “Images are very important to what I do.” Dr. Jost uses images, for example those taken using radioactive elements, to spot diseases such as lung cancer. Dr. Jost is interested in the advancement of medical imaging through new digital and computer technologies. “These days, we can not only see the brain, but we can see networks within the brain,” says Jost. This ability stems from our ability to image objects deep within the human body at smaller and smaller scales, with better resolution. Image resolution describes the level of detail that an image is able to achieve. Comments Jost, “we are on the threshold of a whole new era,” an era of medical imaging on the microscopic scale. Microscopic-scale imaging of the intact human body is indeed a nontrivial achievement. While we can now image very small bacteria or even nano-objects underneath specialized microscopes, it is a whole other thing to image the inner workings of a living human body, which cannot simply be placed underneath a microscope.


Not only are we increasingly being able to image the intricate inner workings of the human body, but we are beginning also to use medical imaging as a tool to monitor disease treatment and even to design and implement new drugs in the treatment of diseases such as cancer. With functional medical imaging techniques such as radioactive-element-detecting PET, “we are able not only to detect a tumor in the lung or the liver for example, but also to measure the effect of treatment on this tumor.” – Dr. Gilbert Jost.

Thanks to Dr. Jost for his opening comments! Return to this blog soon for more coverage on the ‘meat’ of the Imaging Sciences Pathway Retreat!

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First image property of Paige Brown

All images here were collected from Wiki-Commons

ResearchBlogging.orgTsien RY (2003). Imagining imaging’s future. Nature reviews. Molecular cell biology, Suppl PMID: 14587522