Dr. Andrew Goertzen
BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012
At first glance, the University of Manitoba's
Department of Physics & Astronomy might
seem to have little in common with the
advancement of health-care research.
But for medical physicist Dr. Andrew
Goertzen, an associate professor in the
Department of Radiology at the University
of Manitoba, the work being done by his
research team could advance medical
research into new treatments for diseases like
Alzheimer's disease, cancer and heart disease.
Goertzen's team, comprised of researchers
from Radiology, Engineering and Physics &
Astronomy, works on trying to find a better
way for scientists to study disease in mice. To
do that, they are building a high resolution
positron emission tomography machine - one
that's small enough for mice. More precisely,
their research aims to develop small animal
imaging systems and multi-modality hybrid
PET-MRI. Basically, it's a way to look inside
lab mice to better understand how disease
works and how experimental new treatments
may or may not prevent or cure disease.
This is important for one big reason: the
mouse stays alive. "What this allows us to
do is track a single animal over an extended
period of time in the same way that we
monitor patients in a clinical setting," says
Goertzen. Presently, researchers need large
numbers of animals with identical genetics to
track the progression of disease and whether
experimental treatments work.
"The use of imaging techniques such as
hybrid PET-MRI allows the same subject to
be imaged at multiple time points to study the
evolution of the disease and treatment process,"
he says. "This use of imaging accelerates the
translation of basic discoveries in animal
models of human disease to implementation in
trials involving human subjects."
Goertzen's approach merges magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) and positron
emission tomography (PET) - both expensive
and complex technologies - into one device
by allowing the PET system to fit inside
conventional animal MRI systems such as the
one presently installed at the U of M. "Really,
it's a great example of the whole being greater
than the sum of the parts because the types of
information you get from the PET and MRI
are highly complementary." So while they're
not building a better mousetrap, they're on
their way to developing a better research lab -
and pushing medical research years ahead.
Back to "Leading the way"
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Read the November / December 2012 issue of Wave