Quantification of bound microbubbles in ultrasound molecular imaging
Verya Daeichin, Zeynettin Akkus, Ilya Skachkov, Klazina Kooiman, Andrew Needles, Judith Sluimer, Ben Janssen, Mat J A P Daemen, Antonius F W van der Steen, Nico de Jong, Johan G BoschIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control2015
Molecular markers associated with diseases can be visualized and quantified noninvasively with targeted ultrasound contrast agent (t-UCA) consisting of microbubbles (MBs) that can bind to specific molecular targets. Techniques used for quantifying t-UCA assume that all unbound MBs are taken out of the blood pool few minutes after injection and only MBs bound to the molecular markers remain. However, differences in physiology, diseases, and experimental conditions can increase the longevity of unbound MBs. In such conditions, unbound MBs will falsely be quantified as bound MBs. We have developed a novel technique to distinguish and classify bound from unbound MBs. In the post-processing steps, first, tissue motion was compensated using block-matching (BM) techniques. To preserve only stationary contrast signals, a minimum intensity projection (MinIP) or 20th-percentile intensity projection (PerIP) was applied. The after-flash MinIP or PerIP was subtracted from the before-flash MinIP or PerIP. In this way, tissue artifacts in contrast images were suppressed. In the next step, bound MB candidates were detected. Finally, detected objects were tracked to classify the candidates as unbound or bound MBs based on their displacement. This technique was validated in vitro, followed by two in vivo experiments in mice. Tumors (n = 2) and salivary glands of hypercholesterolemic mice (n = 8) were imaged using a commercially available scanner. Boluses of 100 μL of a commercially available t-UCA targeted to angiogenesis markers and untargeted control UCA were injected separately. Our results show considerable reduction in misclassification of unbound MBs as bound ones. Using our method, the ratio of bound MBs in salivary gland for images with targeted UCA versus control UCA was improved by up to two times compared with unprocessed images.