Rapid diagnosis using ultrasound

An advanced version of ultrasound can help doctors reach a much more rapid diagnosis of mild strokes. ‘Rising star’ David Maresca is working hard on this new approach in Delft.

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David Maresca is only 37 years old but he has already built up an impressive CV, specializing in biomolecular ultrasound imaging. Last year, he was awarded a ‘Rising star’ start-up grant by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and got the opportunity to establish his own lab at TU Delft. Here, he and his team will be working on fundamental developments in ultrasound, with applications in neuroscience, medicine, and biology.

Penetrating down to cell level

Ultrasound uses sound waves to form images, with the best-known examples being those unborn children in their mothers’ womb. Ultrasound makes it possible to take a quick ‘look’ deep into the body, without the need for an operation or any other intrusive procedures that may have an undesirable impact on the person or patient. Maresca is now developing technology for using ultrasound to penetrate right down to the cellular level. He focuses on inflammation in blood vessels in the brain. This makes it possible to detect a minor stroke more quickly so the appropriate treatment can be immediately implemented, thereby preventing major, life-threatening damage. Instead of requiring a long process involving several physical tests that can easily take three weeks, this new rapid ultrasound scan can achieve a diagnosis in a mere fifteen minutes.

Acoustic biosensors

However, an important problem still needs to be resolved to make this breakthrough a reality. In order to penetrate down to a cellular level, a biosensor needs to be found. This is a contrast agent that reflects the sound waves in a certain way so that the appearance of a blood vessel can be shown on screen. Maresca believes that he has found this necessary sensor in recently discovered proteins that can reflect sound waves with a specific tag. Numerous tests and complex data analyses are being applied to investigate whether this will indeed provide the necessary contrast. Once verified, these biosensors can then be adapted for diagnosing specific disorders. David Maresca has achieved important breakthroughs in this research, but he still requires vital support to realize the full potential of this unique approach. Your donations can provide him with the necessary facilities and materials to make his dream a reality. This news article is part of the Technology for Health Campaign of the TU Delft. Read more about the campaign.