My professor’s most famous experiment is transcranial MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery, i.e. my lab’s usual techniques applied to brain tumors. A system to perform the surgery is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials, using experimental hardware provided by an Israeli company, Insightec. The trial’s currently on hold, so I hadn’t actually seen all the pieces of the treatment system, but today we started an experiment to test performance in a controlled setting.

The system consists of a modified GE MRI bed, with ports for cooling water and electrical power. At the head of the bed, which slides in to the scanner, is a large, deep bucket, lined with 1000 computer-controlled ultrasound transducers. During a procedure, a patient would be situated with their head in the bucket, and a silicone membrane around their brow line to make a watertight seal. The bucket is then filled with chilled degassed water, both to cool the head, which is being heated by the ultrasound, and to conduct the ultrasound waves.

We were testing with an embalmed skull, filled with a uniform gel. At the control panel, this allows us to observe heating very clearly. The goal of the experiment is to map out the precise heating pattern induced by the ultrasound bucket, to determine how accurate the targeting system is.

No punchline, I’m afraid. I guess you had to be there.

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