BU's Science and Technology Day on March 26 presented nearly 130 outstanding
research posters by graduate students from both the Charles River and
the Medical Campuses. Only 10 posters could be singled out for awards,
but the judges remarked on the extraordinarily high quality of all the
research, as well as the enormous diversity and range of disciplines represented.
"Research Briefs" is highlighting this graduate research. For
a list of awards, and access to abstracts of the work presented, visit
A clearer picture. GRS computer science department
Ph.D. student Harrison Hong (GRS'04), winner of the Provost's Award at
Science and Technology Day, is striving to make the work of radiologists
and surgeons easier. Although modern imaging techniques such as CT scans
provide very detailed information about internal organs, it remains difficult
for physicians to see the information in its complete three-dimensional
context. Being able to see the information this way would aid them in
determining the exact size and precise location of problem areas in organs
such as the lungs.
Also, radiologists must compare repeated studies of pulmonary nodules,
growths in the lungs, to determine if a nodule is growing or changing
shape and whether it is cancerous or benign.
Hong, a student of Margrit Betke, a CAS assistant professor of computer
science, is developing a system to precisely align a series of CT images,
X-ray-like images taken of multiple slices through the body. This image
analysis system begins by segmenting out points on the surface of the
lungs and reconstructing them in three dimensions, then anatomical landmarks
in consecutive CT scans are used to set up an initial alignment of lung
Using a more efficient algorithm developed by Hong, corresponding lung
surface points are quickly matched. This matching process is repeated
until the alignment is refined more and more accurately.
As the surface points move into better alignment, any nodules within the
lung are also automatically aligned, saving radiologists considerable
time by not having to match repeated studies manually.
Hong's and Betke's work on registration of CT lung surfaces was presented
at the the Fourth International Conference on Medical Image Computing
and Computer-Assisted Intervention, held in Utrecht, The Netherlands,
in October 2001. More information as well as images can be seen at: http://www.cs.bu.edu/faculty/betke/research/registration-images.html.
Friendly fire. Lymphocytes, B and T cells, are the
body's defenders. They identify and disable damaging bacteria, viruses,
and other potential health threats. But sometimes things go terribly wrong,
and a situation akin to biological friendly fire develops. In these cases,
lymphocytes attack the body's own cells, leading to serious autoimmune
diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and
some forms of diabetes.
In work that recently earned her the President's Award at Science and
Technology Day, Elizabeth Leadbetter (MED'02), a doctoral candidate in
the department of microbiology and the Immunology Training Program at
the School of Medicine, and her mentor, Microbiology Professor Ann Marshak-Rothstein,
uncovered a critical chain of cellular events that triggers an autoimmune
response. Their experiments reveal a two-step process.
They demonstrate that when certain receptors on the surface of B cells
detect particular configurations of DNA (known as chromatin), they grab
onto it, and drag it into a tiny, bubble-like sac inside the cell, known
as an endosome. Within the endosome, if another receptor (toll-like receptor
TLR9) binds to the chromatin, the autoimmune response is activated. If
the TLR9 is blocked from binding, there is no response.
This finding explains why chloroquine, an antimalarial drug that blocks
the operation of TLR9, is often of benefit to people with autoimmune diseases.
This new information will enable researchers to design drugs that block
TLR9's action, but do not produce the harmful side effects, such as retinal
damage, that can accompany prolonged use of chloroquine.
A paper describing the work by Leadbetter and Marshak-Rothstein was published
in the April 11 issue of the journal Nature.
Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read
more about BU research, visit http://www.bu.edu/research.