Functional Imaging for Soft Tissue Biomechanics

We focus primarily on two clinically-relevant imaging modalities, MRI and CT.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful noninvasive imaging modality that produces images with excellent soft tissue signal and tunable contrast. MRI techniques manipulate the behaviors of nuclei within a material, usually protons, so that their responses to various magnetic fields convey information about their location, motion, and even chemical environment. Beyond simply images of tissue morphology, MRI can therefore be used to probe the mechanical behavior, material properties, and the biochemical content of tissues and other biomaterials.

  • Conventional computed tomography (CT) and microCT provides high-resolution "grayscale" images, especially when paired with contrast agents designed to target tissues of interest or biochemical content by capturing the degree to which a tissue blocks, or attenuates, x-rays. Using cutting edge detectors or even varying x-ray energy levels, spectral, or multi-energy, CT provides information-rich images that scale with the unique patterns of x-ray attenuation of different elements within a tissue. Combined with contrast agents and image processing, spectral CT images can provide quantitative mappings of materials of interest inside a tissue.

Our research group utilizes these techniques to detect early signs of damage or disease in soft tissues. Among these techniques, we utilize displacement- and strain-sensitive MRI imaging techniques and image processing to measure tissue deformations under applied loading. In addition to the identification of areas of anomalous mechanical behavior, data from these types of experiments can also help inform high fidelity computational models of tissue biomechanics. These tools can also be used to assess the efficacy of tissue engineering or pharmaceutical strategies to regenerate tissues.


Interested in joining the lab? Contact Dr. Chan for more information.