Feb 26, 2015

IT’IS Attends Brain Simulation Workshop on Computer Modeling of Focused Ultrasound

The IT’IS Foundation was one of 17 organizations invited by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation to contribute to the Brain Workshop on Treatment Envelope & Simulation held February 2 – 3, 2015 in Charlottesville VA, USA. Esra Neufeld, head of the Computational Life Sciences Group at IT’IS, met with 31 other leading engineers, physicists, and clinicians from around the world to develop a roadmap to improve the accuracy of focused ultrasound (FUS) computer simulations towards broadening the “treatment envelope” for additional FUS therapeutic targets.

Currently, FUS technology is used to target areas in the center of the brain in or near the thalamus, mainly for treating movement disorders and neuropathic pain. Strides are being made to expand the regions of the brain currently considered treatable to include more peripheral targets and to investigate and treat a wider range of neurological disorders.

Computer simulations to model therapies for application in peripheral brain regions represent a relatively low-cost, low risk alternative to clinical trials in human patients. Although computer models have been used to simulate FUS in various other tissues, no numerical FUS models have yet been validated for transcranial treatment. The workshop was convened to explore how computer modeling applications might be used to address challenges related to tissue targeting in the brain, to facilitate patient selection, and to predict and prevent unwanted secondary effects like skull heating.

An outcome of the workshop is the creation of a roadmap of projects designed to meet these challenges, with a plan to produce a white paper in which timelines, milestones, and the roles and responsibilities associated with each research project are defined. The proposed projects include:

  • Validation of the accuracy of the computer simulation by means of hydrophone measurements within the human skull to measure pressures produced by a FUS transducer and compare with pressures predicted by modeling.
  • Determination of the ability of computer simulations to predict treatment effects by comparing real treatment results in patients with the temperature changes and induced effects predicted by computer simulations.
  • Analysis of data from previous clinical treatments to develop an understanding of the relationship between focused ultrasound input power and heating of the targeted tissue.

The researchers are working to accomplish these aims within six months. According to Esra, “The goal is to go beyond physics by identifying potential interaction mechanisms and establishing dose-effect relationships. Ultimately, investigators will need to demonstrate they can predict, with known precision, quantities of interest of a complex reality based on increasingly sophisticated simulations.”

In addition to contributing knowledge on validation, uncertainty assessment, acoustic, thermal, and neuronal dynamics modeling and to being involved in the abovementioned projects, IT’IS has also been tasked with setting up a publicly available database on acoustic tissue properties, thereby expanding its current tissue properties database.

More information about this workshop is available here.


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