Department of Imaging and Pathology
The bidirectional research in imaging and pathology aims at the translation of new insights into better diagnostic and therapeutic applications with a definite social and economical endpoint.
About the Department
The department consists of 9 research groups with a tight link to the clinical unit in the university hospital for most groups. Several research groups also have a close interaction with the Molecular Small Animal Imaging Center (MoSAIC).
Major Areas of Research
Multimodal morphological, functional and molecular cardiac imaging and neuro-imaging - Cell tracking and stem cell imaging - Total body imaging in oncology - Radiotracer development - Novel anticancer strategy - Translational cell and tissue research in gastrointestinal pathology, oncology and inflammation - Forensic postmortem imaging and virtual reconstruction - Forensic genetics -
Quality control and imaging reconstruction - Research in oral and maxillofacial surgery
Forensic Biomedical Sciences
Medical Physics & Quality Assessment
Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging
Translational Cell & Tissue Research
Oral and Maxillo-facial Surgery
Department Core Facility
MoSAIC (Molecular Small Animal Imaging Center)
The main focus of the Biomedical MRI group is the non-invasive evaluation of animal models using mainly MRI but also utilizing multi-modal imaging approaches (combined with optical imaging, ultrasound, CT and PET). Besides further development and optimization of imaging methods, the development of MRI contrast agents and multimodal probes for molecular and cell imaging is one focus of our work. Technical developments and applications include MR spectroscopy, perfusion methods (ASL, DCE etc.) but also diffusion, phase contrast and susceptibility weighted MR imaging in rodents. The main focus is on oncology, neurodegenerative diseases and infectious diseases.
The research of the Forensic Biomedical Sciences group integrates scientific and clinical disciplines within a multidisciplinary program with a focus on forensic genetics, molecular archaeology and forensic medicine. Within this framework, there is collaboration with other research groups at KU Leuven and UZ Leuven, as well internationally.
The research themes that are covered include:
• Development and implementation of novel molecular techniques
• Forensic epigenetics
• Genetics of contemporary (including genealogy) and historical populations (Y chromosome and mitochondrial genome)
• Forensic imaging (3D reconstruction and virtual autopsy)
The research activities of the Medical Physics and Quality assessment research group include ionizing as well as non-ionizing imaging modalities. Both of them are characterized by a rapid technological development and many new radiological applications.
Our activities focus on modeling of different aspects of the imaging process, optimization of radiological images, the proposal and validation of new data processing and automated quality management.
Actual projects are in the domains of fMRI, diffusion MRI, digital radiology, digital mammography, breast tomosynthesis, cone beam dental imaging, CT and new techniques in quality management.
The research group Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging focuses on development, validation and (pre)clinical utilization of molecular imaging biomarkers and radionuclide therapy. This is done through a complete translational approach in the Molecular Imaging Research Centre Leuven (MIRACLE) with close integration in MoSAIC (Molecular Small Animal Imaging Centre).
Main topics of group-initiated research are :
- brain imaging (neurodegeneration, epilepsy, addiction, psychosis, brain tumors)
- cardiology (stem cell tracking, heart failure, myocardial ischemia)
- oncology (early therapy response, angiogenesis, radionuclide bèta and alpha therapy)
- methodology (multimodal integration, image registration, partial volume correction, reconstruction, kinetic modeling).
Molecular imaging of biomarkers is intrinsically related to drug development where in phase 0 and 1 studies target engagement, occupancy and proof-of-principle studies are carried out, also in collaboration with pharmaceutical industry and the Centre for Clinical Pharmacology.
For more information: lab website
The major research line of the Radiology research group is the advanced MRI study of cellular integrity (DWI), tissue structure (DTI) and complexity (DKI), vascularisation (perfusion), energy metabolism and cell proliferation (Spectroscopy).
These techniques are applied in:
oncology: detection and characterization of malignancy (head &neck, chest, breast, liver, cervix, ovarian, prostate, lymphoma, myeloma, GIST, whole body), staging, and FU of tumor response.
fetal imaging (+ virtual autopsy): characterization of complex morphological and functional disorders.
The second research line focuses on interventional radiological techniques e.g. transcatheter embolization and stenting.
The Theragnostic Laboratory is based on a unique platforms with animal models of relevant pathologies and uses imaging techniques as major experimental tools. The main focus is on original and translational research to find diagnostic and therapeutic solutions for life-threatening disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The research group also trains graduate students and provides services to third parties. There is a close collaboration with internal and external research groups.
The Translational Cell and Tissue research group is mainly composed of pathologists, specialized in a particular organ system and working in multidisciplinary groups, both in a clinical and in a research setting.
Pathology is a specialty investigating cells and tissues using morphological techniques. Since most basic research groups need these techniques to interprete cell cultures or animal models, pathology is ideally placed at the interface between basic research and clinical application. We can characterize cell culture systems morphologically and immunohistochemically, and can characterize animal models and evaluate their representativity for human diseases in view of our clinical specialization.
Our own research is human tissue based in view of our clinical specialty. We use cell culture systems and animal models mainly to confirm our human data. The research in our group is divided in two large clusters: cancer research and research of inflammatory conditions.
The OMFS-IMPATH research group relates to development and validation of surgical tools and image-based solutions to advance in oromaxillofacial surgery, with an ultimate aim to obtain an optimised treatment outcome while minimizing the peri- and postsurgical risks, such as neurovascular trauma. In order to achieve this, a global integration of digital datasets will enable the creation of a virtual replica of the patient. This may allow full simulation of the surgery as well as of its expected outcome. While the latter may help to further modify and finetune the planned surgery, the former integrated virtual data may allow presurgical simulations, development of image-based surgical tools and navigation. Research will be focussed on image-based development of surgical aids with a validation of their clinical applicability. Research lines will include: optimised image acquisition with the least radiation dose, especially when children are concerned; image-based development of individualised surgical tools, while striving for advanced applications of e.g. 3D printing; maximised visualisation of the trigeminal nerve pathway to minimize the surgical risks for trigeminal nerve damage. Such visualisation may also assist in creating new access routes and surgical strategies to modulate trigeminal neuropathic pain.
For more information : lab website
The Translational MRI research group performs state-of-the-art in-vivo human MR research in neuro, cardiac, oncologic and various other domains. In addition to state-of-the art hardware, software and applications, it provides collaborative resources to support the design, implementation, acquisition and analysis phases of MRI investigations. In collaboration with multiple in-vitro and animal imaging departments, it provides translational research from animal to human relating to normal development and disease. The department houses four 3T human MRI systems, as well as extensive support facilities.
Teaching in imaging and pathology at the Bachelor, Master and ManaMa level in the Biomedical sciences group.
Between 30 and 40 doctoral students prepare a PhD in one of the research groups in the department.