May 29, 2019

Wayne State to develop novel neonatal brain imaging method

Preterm and low-birth-weight babies are at high risk for intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) due to birth trauma or oxygen deprivation during the birth process. Complications result in shunt dependence and lifelong problems such as cerebral palsy and visual or cognitive dysfunction.

Currently, MRI is the most reliable diagnostic tool to study ICH. This method requires moving clinically unstable newborns out of the neonatal intensive care unit and sedating them, which creates additional risks such as hypotension, hemodynamic changes or allergic reactions. In addition, MRI scans are costly.

Mohammad Avanaki, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering in Wayne State University’s College of Engineering, has received a four-year, $1.5 million R01 grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) of the National Institutes of Health to develop a novel TransFontanelle Multispectral Photoacoustic Imaging (TFMPI) method that will improve the detection of brain hemorrhage in infants without the need for sedation, radiation or radionuclides.

TFMPI is safer and less costly than current, clinically used neuroimaging methods. TFMPI will allow for earlier treatment, which could circumvent neural complications and improve functional outcomes from cerebral palsy and cognitive impairments. This project is a collaboration between Wayne State’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, the neonatology program in Wayne State’s School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and the University of Michigan. The team plans to fully test the TFMPI technique for future potential clinical use.

“After discussion with over 20 neonatologists across the United States, we have determined there is a great need for an imaging method that is safe, low-cost, has a high sensitivity to blood, is portable and can be used bedside as a point-of-care diagnostic screening method to improve health outcomes in preterm newborns.” said Avanaki.

The grant number for this National Institutes of Health grant is EB027769.

Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit


Julie O'Connor
Phone: 313-577-8845

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