A world-leading expert in ultrasound imaging technology says Callaghan Innovation is helping to develop a potential revolution in the diagnosis of head injuries.
Roman Maev, distinguished professor at Canada’s Windsor University and head of the Institute for Diagnostic Imaging Research is in New Zealand visiting a number of businesses and research institutions as he seeks partners to develop a few of the many projects he has on the go.
Born in Russia – the birthplace of ultrasound imaging – the academic and businessman has worked in ultrasound for more than 40 years, along the way founding Tessonics, a company which has developed systems for testing welding and adhesion of parts in the automotive and aviation industries.
Replacing expensive and inefficient destructive testing of parts, the technology has been adopted by clients such as Ford, BMW, Boeing and many others.
He has also worked in acoustic microscopy to develop and understand nanomaterials, such as high-temperature superconductors.
But it is the medical applications of ultrasound that brought Maev to New Zealand, working with New Plymouth company Precision Microcircuits and Callaghan Innovation on a game-changer in head injury diagnosis.
Maev explains the human brain can’t currently be reliably assessed using ultrasound thanks to the complicate structure of human skull.
“The human skull has three layers. The outer (upper) compact bone is fine, but the inner diploe layer consists of irregular grains and disrupts ultrasonic signals.
“This, together with the bottom irregular surface and thickness of the bone make imaging of the brain unreliable.
“Currently you have to use an MRI machine, which costs in the range a few million dollars.
“Follow your customer needs, try to listen them and understand their problems. If you don’t … they will stop talking to you and you will be lost to them.”
“The US Office of Naval Research has asked us to work on solving this problem and find solution that ultrasound technology would be able to see internal brain structures and can be used in field operations. When we will solve this –it will open broad possibilities also for many civilian applications.”
“Using a less expensive a portable ultrasound device to check head injuries would change the way people in rural areas, during natural disasters, or athletes access medical help after a potential brain injury.
“If you live hundreds of kilometres from the nearest city with an MRI or CT Scan, instead of a long journey the nearest small hospital or ambulance could have a such portable ultrasonic imaging device available.
“If you suffer a head injury playing sport, someone could assess you on the field and decide ‘he’s OK’ or ‘no, this injury is serious, we can’t move him’.”
Callaghan Innovation Business Development Manager for Research and Technology Services, Tom Nicolle, says Maev and Callaghan Innovation have a long and fruitful partnership.
“Callaghan Innovation teams work on the transducers used in many ultrasonic devices, and we have helped put Roman in touch with technical capability in other research institutions and businesses in New Zealand”.
“This is a great example of how our R&D capability is making an impact internationally.”
Maev even cites Callaghan Innovation namesake Sir Paul Callaghan as an example of the attitude to adopt when working in applied research.
“He said ‘lots of people talk about commercialisation, but we did it’. That’s how I feel as well.”
Maev also has a message for researchers about working with potential clients to make the leap from successful testing to commercial reality: “Follow your customer needs, try to listen them and understand their problems. If you don’t customise your idea for their needs, they will stop talking to you and you will be lost to them.”