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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 7, 2003

UI Engineer Receives $1.4 Million NIH Grant For Heart Imaging

Milan Sonka, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering, and six colleagues have received a four-year, $1.4 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to develop imaging analysis tools that may help physicians to better detect heart disease.

Sonka, who will serve as project principal investigator, is joined by co-principal investigator Dr. Thomas Scholz, associate professor of pediatrics in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and co-investigators Dr. Shuping Ge, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Carver College of Medicine; Andreas Wahle, visiting assistant research professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering; Alan Stolpen, associate professor of radiology in the Carver College of Medicine; David Skorton, UI president and professor of internal medicine in the Carver College of Medicine; and Trudy Burns, professor of genetics in the College of Public Health.

The interdisciplinary project, titled "Highly Automated Analysis of 4-D Cardiovascular MR Data," will involve the development of novel techniques for the early detection of changes in heart morphology and function in congenital heart disease patients. The magnetic resonance image analysis research associated with the study will focus, in part, on Tetralogy of Fallot patients.

In this condition, children born with an improperly formed right ventricle receive early surgery allowing the right ventricle to pump blood to the lungs. With the passage of time, however, the right ventricle must work harder and harder, and it gradually becomes enlarged, a condition requiring re-operation of the right ventricle to lung artery connection.

Using such quantitative tools as motion analysis, Sonka and his colleagues will help physicians identify enlarged ventricles as early as possible, before the changes are apparent visually and before irreversible damage occurs to the right ventricle. Also, the project will aid in the diagnosis of individuals suffering from congenital connective tissue disorders, conditions leading to the development of aortic aneurysms. In the case of Marfan syndrome, abnormalities of connective tissue can lead to the rupture of the aorta.

"We are trying to aid in the early identification of irreversible conditions in patients born with inherited cardiac disease," Sonka says.

Sonka's Medical Image Analysis Laboratory in the College of Engineering conducts interdisciplinary research into novel approaches to medical image acquisition, process and analysis. One of the areas of emphasis involves the use of magnetic resonance imaging for early assessment of heart disease.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,