Differential Microwave Imaging for Advanced Clinical Applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Microwave Imaging (MI) has gained a great deal of attention among researchers over the past decade, mainly due to its potential use in breast cancer imaging. MI is seen as a safe, portable and low-cost alternative to existing imaging modalities. Due to the breast tissue properties at microwave frequencies, MI benefits from significantly higher contrast than other techniques. The great excitement about MI radar system is that, using a multi-static real aperture technique and sophisticated signal processing, it has sufficient resolution to be clinically useful and is far better than simple wavelength assumptions would estimate. Whilst to date MI has been mainly proposed for breast cancer detection, some recent reports have also speculated a use of MI in extremities imaging, diagnostics of lung cancer, brain imaging and cardiac imaging. Despite the interest in Microwave Imaging among researchers, it has not moved far beyond numerical simulations and very simple experimental works without clinical realisation. Bristol is among two research groups in the world who have clinical experience with Microwave Imaging.Compared with other medical imaging techniques, microwave imaging is still in its infancy. One historical reason for this might due to the fact that most microwave systems-devices originated in military applications, radar being an obvious example. In recent years however, due to the mobile/wireless revolution, we have witnessed unprecedented progress in high performance microwave hardware as well as computing power. This opens up a unique opportunity for development of microwave imaging systems. The goal of this Career Acceleration Fellowship project is to explore a novel direction in MI, Differential Microwave Imaging (DMI), in clinical applications reaching far beyond breast cancer detection. In Differential Microwave Imaging, the goal is to image temporal changes in tissue, and not the tissue itself. This somewhat limits usability of DMI as an imaging technique on one hand, but at the same time it opens up totally new applications where standard Microwave Imaging could not be applied. The idea of DMI came from the discovery during world's first clinical trial of microwave radar imaging system in Bristol in 2009. During the clinical trials it was realised that the Microwave Imaging system was extremely sensitive to any changes occurring during the scan. Following this up it was then discovered that the local change in tissue properties can easily be detected and precisely located. Moreover, it was shown that this change in local properties of tissues can even be detected in very dense and heterogeneous breast tissues. The project will focus on two applications, serving as Proof of Principle:1. Nanoparticle contrast-enhanced DMI for cancer detection The proposed work on 3D detection of nanoparticles is of great interest to researchers working in the cancer imaging field. DMI could find applications not only in cancer detection, but it could also be used to find and evaluate the effectiveness of new cancer biomarkers, track nanoparticle-labelled cells or monitor delivery of nanoparticles for hyperthermia treatment. 2. Functional brain imaging using DMI radar systemDMI, as a general method, is also a promising concept for functional brain imaging. Development of the DMI system for functional brain imaging is timely related to current research activities in neuroscience. Functional imaging is used to diagnose metabolic diseases and lesions (such as Alzheimer's disease or epilepsy) and also for neurological and cognitive psychology research. This novel interdisciplinary project connects the fields of electronic engineering, nanotechnology and medical physics. The proposed research project addresses one of the EPSRC strategic priorities: Towards next generation healthcare. High calibre of clinical collaborators will ensure that research outcomes are relevant to end users.

Planned Impact

This novel interdisciplinary project connects the fields of electronic engineering, nanotechnology and medical physics. The proposed research project addresses one of the EPSRC strategic priorities: Towards next generation healthcare, in particular Sensor Technologies and Targeted Therapies sub-theme. From the outset of the project I will collaborate with clinicians from relevant fields, to ensure that any research outcomes are relevant to end users. In the international context the project lies within the new Bio-Nano-ICT convergence technologies theme, intensively promoted by the European Commission's FP7 research programme. The proposed project will help to ensure UK's leading role in this new, interdisciplinary research theme. Due to an interdisciplinary nature of the project there is a wide range of possible beneficiaries: Students - undergraduate/MSc students will benefit by undertaking projects related with this fellowship research; should they work result in publishable results, they will have the chance for first publications, which might be very helpful in their further education/career. Two PhD students assigned to the project will benefit by performing novel and timely research. This will be excellent start into their careers either in academia or industry. To maximize student's benefits , I will support them in attending conferences at national and international levels. NHS - medical imaging technology developed within the proposed project could significantly reduce costs spent on imaging equipment and its maintenance. DMI clinical system could be build on commercial scale for less than 10,000, which is significantly less than cost of current imaging machines. Financial issues will play be increasingly important with ageing population and increase in demand for affordable healthcare technologies. NHS patients - Microwave imaging has a huge potential clinically, with its advantages over the conventional modalities (Ultrasound, X-Rays, and MRI) of being faster, cheaper, more comfortable for patients, safer and more reproducible. Moreover, DMI system could be deployed at any location needed, improving accessibility for patients. General public - Information about the project will be disseminated at public events, for example science open days . These events provide an opportunity for researchers to interact with the public and communicate general scientific topics and their scientific work. Scientific work will also be communicated to local schools by giving talks on science to a general audience, which will benefit students interested in pursuing a degree in engineering. Industry - the biggest possible outcome of the project and benefit to UK industry is a potential to create new branch in medical imaging technologies. This could either be a separate branch dedicated to microwave imaging techniques, or multi-modality imaging technology which would combine new microwave techniques with existing imaging technologies, for example ultra-sound or EEG. Commercial companies could also benefit by licensing IP created by project's results. Because of the great potential of the proposed project, and also a very competitive field, I have recently filed 3 patent applications. UK science - UK's science position would be further strengthened by this work. This project is likely to inspire new ideas and collaboration at other UK Universities. The proposed field of research encompasses electromagnetics, nano-science and medical imaging, areas which the Faculties of Engineering and Medicine are keen to grow in both teaching and research given the key linkage with future health care provision in the UK.


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Abutarboush H (2013) Signal Selection for Contrast-Enhanced UWB Microwave Radar Imaging With Inhomogeneous Breast Phantoms in IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters

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Christodoulou C (2012) Analysis of a UWB Hemispherical Antenna Array in FDTD With a Time Domain Huygens Method in IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation

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Klemm M. (2013) DGTD method for microwave propagation in dispersive media with applications to bioelectromagnetics in European Microwave Week 2013, EuMW 2013 - Conference Proceedings; EuMC 2013: 43rd European Microwave Conference

Description The key findings related to this research are related to the sensitivity of the microwave dynamic radar imaging in medical applications. We showed that our imaging system is extremely sensitive to very small changes in localised permittivity of tissues. This allowed us to detect clinically relevant quantities of contrast agents in dynamic imaging scenarios. Detection of such small quantities is possible is a controlled lab environments, but is significantly more challenging in real clinical settings.
Another development was related to the hardware side of the imaging system. We have shown that real time imaging with microwave system is possible and gives very good results in tested scenarios.
Exploitation Route Based on the discoveries described above, we will be seeking further funding by applying for larger grants in respective fields.

We have also started a research collaboration with commercial partner who will use some of our finding in another medical application (glucose monitoring device).
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Electronics,Healthcare

Description Our results resulted in a potential exploitation of the technology in non-medical ares. We're currently in the process of commercialising the technology in the field of precision agriculture. Namely, we're planing to create a spin-out company developing a radar-based soil moisture sensors for farmers. The new sensors will be mounted on the drone.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Electronics
Description University of Adelaide 
Organisation University of Adelaide
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have designed the novel type of nanoantenna in collaboration with Adelaide
Collaborator Contribution Based on my designs, Adelaide is fabricating nanoantennas. This is a nanofabrication process and significant resources in terms of staff and equipment have been dedicated to this activity.
Impact joint publications : 9789812870957, 10.1109/JPHOT.2014.2337891, 10.1109/APEMC.2012.6237984, 10.1109/APS.2011.5996811
Start Year 2011
Description Start-up pitch winner 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact award winner of Agri-Tech East's 2017 GROW agri-tech business plan competition https://www.agritech-east.co.uk/soil-moisture-sensor-breakthrough-paves-way-for-smart-irrigation/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.agritech-east.co.uk/soil-moisture-sensor-breakthrough-paves-way-for-smart-irrigation/