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Fernando Zvietcovich awarded SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral Fellowship

27 Nov 2019

The 2020 award will support research into optical coherence elastography and its translation into clinics.

The 2020 SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral Fellowship will be awarded to Fernando Zvietcovich, currently a PhD candidate at the University of Rochester, who will receive the Fellowship's $75,000 prize.

This annual award is intended to support interdisciplinary research in the biophotonics sector, and provide opportunities for translating new technologies into clinical practice. Zvietcovich will receive recognition during the BIOS Hot Topics session at SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco on 1st February 2020.

Zvietcovich's research, conducted in conjunction with Kirill Larin and Michael Twa at the University of Houston's Biomedical Optics Lab, involves developing a novel biophotonics-based optical coherence elastography (OCE) technique, and translating it into clinical practice.

OCE, of which Larin has been a strong proponent, employs optical coherence tomography (OCT) to image tissue while it is under some form of transient local mechanical deformation and subsequent recovery. This introduces an additional contrast mechanism to the OCT operation and allows valuable added information about the tissue's physical properties to be gathered.

The technique could have significant impact in a number of bioimaging sectors, with ophthalmology a prime candidate. Zvietcovich was recently lead author on a paper using OCE to non-destructively map the elasticity of individual layers in the ex vivo corneas of pigs, producing descriptions of the layers with what the paper described as unprecedented contrast.

"In recent years, my research in novel wave-based OCE methods has added to the collaborative scientific community's efforts in demonstrating the powerful capabilities of OCE to advance the diagnosis and monitoring of ocular diseases and treatments in ophthalmology," said Zvietcovich.

"Following the precedent of clinically available elastography technologies implemented in other imaging modalities, I strongly believe it is time to translate wave-based OCE into a medical device for its clinical use with human patients. I am very proud and fortunate that SPIE recognizes the value of my work by providing me with an excellent opportunity for developing translational research that constitutes a fundamental step towards my career development."

Diagnosis and recovery from disease

The potential impact of OCE will be recognized at SPIE Photonics West 2020 by the show's seventh Optical Elastography and Tissue Biomechanics conference, co-chaired by Kirill Larin.

Topics discussed at the conference alongside OCE are set to include shear wave elastography, in which external stimulation creates shear waves propagating through the tissue; and Brillouin elastography, a label- and contact-free method which exploits inelastic scattering of light by acoustic waves in a medium, when those waves are induced by thermal or other excitation.

The growth of biomechanics-based techniques is being spurred by an increased understanding of ways in which biomechanical properties, such as tissue stiffness, can play a significant role in both the development of disease and subsequent recovery from treatment.

"This is a very exciting proposal from an excellent researcher working in a lab recognized for innovative research that translates into solving medical problems," said the co-chairs of the Hillenkamp Fellowship Committee, Rox Anderson and Gabriela Apiou. "Fernando's area of focus will directly impact critical challenges in healthcare, and we look forward to seeing the outcome of his work."

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