The Herd Research Lab
Dr. Teresa Herd’s research is in medical physics, specifically quantitative ultrasound. Ultrasound is underutilized as a possible detection and diagnostic tool. Ultrasound Imagining has the advantage of being non-invasive and does not contribute to radiation exposure, which is a particular advantage when dealing with possible cancer-related imaging. Ultrasound radio frequency (rf) echo signals can be used to measure characteristics of scanned tissue, such as speed of sound, attenuation, and backscatter coefficients. It has been shown that these properties can be used to distinguish between healthy and diseased tissue. In particular, quantitative ultrasound (QUS) can be used to identify malignant compared to benign tumors. Although many studies have been done on ultrasonic tissue properties of tumors, there is little knowledge about why the differences (between malignant and benign) exist.
Her lab uses QUS on cells outside the cellular matrix to identify key differences between cancerous and healthy cells. The speed of sound, attenuation, and backscatter coefficients (BSCs) are measured and BSCs will be used to model scatterer size. These simple experiments can lead to a whole new line of information about the differences between benign and malignant cells. This will establish a database of differences between cells and can be used to identify what is the primary mechanism of scattering. This will establish a greater understanding of ultrasonic interactions with tissue. Furthermore, this can be used to inform clinical studies on using ultrasound to diagnose or detect cancer.