FIP Seminar: Listening to the Sound of Light to Guide Surgeries

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Wed, 04/10/2019 - 12:00 to 13:00

Dr. Bisi Bell


Dr. Muyinatu Bell, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University


 Minimally invasive surgeries require complicated maneuvers, delicate hand-eye coordination, and ideally would incorporate “x-ray vision” to see beyond tool tips and underneath tissue prior to making incisions. The Photoacoustic and Ultrasonic Systems Engineering (PULSE) Lab is pioneering this feature, but not with harmful ionizing x-rays. Instead, we use optical fibers for photoacoustic sensing of major structures – like blood vessels and nerves – that are otherwise hidden from a surgeon’s immediate view. Our goal is to eliminate surgical complications caused by accidental injury to these structures. Photoacoustic imaging utilizes light and sound to make images by transmitting laser pulses that illuminate regions of interest, causing thermal expansion and the generation of sound waves that are detectable with conventional ultrasound transducers. 

In this talk, I will describe our novel light delivery systems that attach to surgical tools to deliver light to surgical sites. I will also introduce how we learn from the physics of sound propagation in tissue to develop acoustic beamforming algorithms that improve image quality, using both state-of-the-art deep learning methods and our newly developed spatial coherence theory. These light delivery and acoustic beamforming methods hold promise for robotic tracking tasks, visualization and visual servoing of surgical tool tips, and assessment of relative distances between the surgical tool and nearby critical structures (e.g., major blood vessels and nerves that if injured will cause severe complications, paralysis, or patient death). Impacted surgeries and procedures include neurosurgery, liver surgery, spinal fusion surgery, hysterectomies, and biopsies. 


 Muyinatu Bell is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University, where she founded and directs the Photoacoustic and Ultrasonic Systems Engineering (PULSE) Lab. Dr. Bell earned a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering (biomedical engineering minor) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2006), received a Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University (2012), conducted research abroad as a Whitaker International Fellow at the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden Hospital in the United Kingdom (2009-2010), and completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Engineering Research Center for Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology at Johns Hopkins University (2016). She has published over 60 scientific journal articles and conference papers, holds a patent for short-lag spatial coherence beamforming, and is the recipient of numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award (2015), MIT Technology Review’s Innovator Under 35 Award (2016), the NSF CAREER Award (2018), and the NIH Trailblazer Award (2018).