Peter Joel Basser, Ph.D.
Section on Quantitative Imaging and Tissue Sciences
Quantitative Imaging and Tissue Sciences
In our basic tissue sciences research, we strive to understand fundamental relationships between function and structure in living tissues. Specifically, we are interested in how microstructure, hierarchical organization, composition, and material properties affect a tissue's functional properties or its dysfunction. Specifically, we view various transport mechanisms as mediating physiological processes, and study these in biological and other model systems at various length and time scales, performing physical measurements in tandem with developing and applying physical/mathematical models to explain tissue functional properties and behavior. Experimentally, we use water to probe both equilibrium and dynamic interactions among tissue constituents from nanometers to centimeters and from microseconds to decades. To determine the equilibrium osmo-mechanical properties of well defined model systems, we vary water content or ionic composition systematically. To probe tissue structure and dynamics, we employ atomic force microscopy (AFM), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), static light scattering (SLS), dynamic light scattering (DLS), and one- and two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry, diffusometry and exchange methodologies. A goal of our basic tissue sciences research is to develop new understanding and tools that can be translated from bench-based quantitative methodologies to the bedside.
Our tissue sciences research dovetails with our basic and applied research in quantitative imaging, which is intended to generate measurements and maps of intrinsic physical quantities, including diffusivities, relaxivities, or exchange rates, rather than qualitative stains and images conventionally mapped in a radiological exam. At a basic level, our translational work is directed toward making invisible structures and processes visible. Our quantitative imaging group uses knowledge of physics, engineering, applied mathematics, imaging and computer sciences, and insights gleaned from our tissue sciences research described above to discover and develop novel quantitative imaging biomarkers that sensitively and specifically detect changes in tissue composition, microstructure, or microdynamics. The ultimate translational goal of developing such biomarkers is to assess normal and abnormal development, diagnose childhood diseases and disorders, and characterize degeneration and trauma. Primarily, we use MRI as our imaging modality of choice because it is so well suited to many NICHD mission–critical applications; it is non-invasive, non-ionizing, requires (in most cases) no exogenous contrast agents or dyes, and is generally deemed safe and effective for fetuses, mothers and children in both clinical and research settings.
A technical objective of our lab has been to transform clinical MRI scanners into scientific instruments capable of producing reproducible, highly accurate, and precise imaging data to enable the measurement and mapping of useful biomarkers for various applications, including single scans, longitudinal and multi-site studies, personalized medical imaging, genotype/phenotype correlation studies, and for populating imaging databases with high-quality normative data. With the advent of low-cost low-field MRI systems, we are working to improve image quality, sensitivity and specificity as a means to democratize access and use of imaging modalities. We are also dedicated to advance neuroscience through developing neurotechnologies to improve our understanding of structure-function relations in the nervous system, and therapies to improve nervous system function.
Dr. Peter Basser received his A.B., S.M., and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Sciences from Harvard University and his postdoctoral training in Bioengineering within the NIH IRP. In 1998, he became a Senior Investigator, and Chief of the new Section on Tissue Biophysics and Biomimetics (STBB), NICHD. From 2009 through 2015, he additionally served as Director of the Program on Pediatric Imaging and Tissue Sciences. He was then appointed to be the Associate Scientific Director for Imaging, Behavior, and Genomic Integrity within the NICHD IRP, a position he still holds.
Dr. Basser is widely known for the invention, development, and clinical implementation of MR diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), diffusion tensor "streamline tractography," and several other quantitative MRI methods for performing in vivo MRI histology or "microstructure imaging". These include CHARMED and AxCaliber MRI, which measures the mean axon diameter and axon diameter distribution, respectively, within white matter pathways, and double Pulsed-Field Gradient (dPFG) or double wave-vector MRI methods, which are now widely used to elucidate distinct microstructural features of both gray and white matter in the brain. Within the area of neurotechnology, he made seminal contributions in our understanding of the physical underpinnings of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and its application to treating depression. He wrote the first paper describing a then new technique for delivering chemotherapeutic agents, which is now called "convection enhanced delivery" or CED.
Dr. Basser's notable awards and achievements include receiving the Gold Medal from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) and being inducted into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).
Komlosh ME, Horkay F, Freidlin RZ, Nevo U, Assaf Y, Basser PJ. Detection of microscopic anisotropy in gray matter and in a novel tissue phantom using double Pulsed Gradient Spin Echo MR. J Magn Reson. 2007;189(1):38-45.
Basser PJ, Pajevic S, Pierpaoli C, Duda J, Aldroubi A. In vivo fiber tractography using DT-MRI data. Magn Reson Med. 2000;44(4):625-32.
Özarslan E, Koay CG, Shepherd TM, Komlosh ME, İrfanoğlu MO, Pierpaoli C, Basser PJ. Mean apparent propagator (MAP) MRI: a novel diffusion imaging method for mapping tissue microstructure. Neuroimage. 2013;78:16-32.
Related Scientific Focus Areas
Biomedical Engineering and Biophysics
This page was last updated on November 6th, 2020