National Science Foundation awards Riccardo Lattanzi NSF CAREER Award to Study Interacion of Electromagnetic Field With Biological Tissue

Riccardo Lattanzi, combining two things he loves: teaching & science
Riccardo Lattanzi, assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine and NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, has been awarded a five-year $500,000 CAREER grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF). According to NSF, the honor goes to “junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education,” and whose work integrates the two domains. The NSF Directorate of Engineering, which grants the award, predicts in its press release that the recipients "will open new frontiers of knowledge" in areas as diverse as health, energy, and environment.
In an interview, Dr. Lattanzi said that the grant will allow him to develop and disseminate a new method to “extract tissue electrical properties from measurements obtained with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems.” These systems expose patients to radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic (EM) field, causing live tissue to absorb RF energy, which dissipates as heat. But because scientists don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the distribution of electrical properties in the human body, they cannot predict exactly how the absorbed energy disperses throughout a person’s tissues.
NSF CAREER award honors junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.
As a result, current safety regulations place conservative limits on RF power in MRI machines, preventing radiologists and researchers from exploiting the full potential of scanners, especially those operating at high magnetic fields. ”We tend, figuratively speaking, to scan with one hand tied behind our backs,” said Daniel Sodickson, director of the NYU’s Center for Biomedical Imaging and principal investigator at CAI2R (Dr. Sodickson and Dr. Lattanzi have been collaborating for years on MR-based techniques for mapping of electrical properties).
But if scientists had accurate maps of the body’s electrical properties, they could “understand the interactions of EM fields with tissue and control how much RF power is deposited” in different regions, according to Dr. Lattanzi, who hopes that his work will engender higher quality MR images, enhance diagnostic MR components, and improve therapeutic tools, such as RF ablation, used to remotely burn off cancer cells without damaging surrounding tissue. Researchers who study basic biophysics would also benefit from Dr. Lattanzi’s work by gaining tools to non-invasively measure electric conductivity and permittivity in vivo.
In addition, the award will support a graduate student and fund development of interdisciplinary courses in electrodynamics, physics, and biomedical engineering. Dr. Lattanzi serves as Graduate Advisor for the Sackler Biomedical Imaging doctoral program, where he teaches imaging; He also heads training at CAI2R.


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We gratefully acknowledge generous support for radiology research at NYU Langone Medical Center from:
• The Big George Foundation
• Raymond and Beverly Sackler
• Bernard and Irene Schwartz

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