Xuezhu Zhang, Ph.D., Assistant Project Scientist in the Qi Lab, has been named the 2019 recipient of the Henry N. Wagner, Jr, MD, Best Paper Award by the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) for the paper titled “Total-body Parametric Imaging Using Kernel and Direct Reconstruction on the uEXPLORER.”
The award, named after one of the pioneers of nuclear medicine, is the top honor in the medical imaging field. It recognizes outstanding science and identifies the top paper in one of the following categories: cardiology, general nuclear medicine, neuroscience, and oncology in conjunction with the SNMMI Highlights Symposium. Award winners are selected using Dr. Wagner’s long-standing criteria: Is it true? Is it new? Is it well-designed? And is it meaningful?
Zhang, the first author on the paper, explained that parametric imaging is one important advantage among many applications using PET to noninvasively measure the assays of physiology and biochemistry in vivo. However, current parametric analysis is still utilizing regional based imaging. Conventional scanners (CT, PET, MRI, etc.) have a limited field of view and can only cover a specific region of the body at one time. This requires operators to move the bed along the scanner and stitch the images together in order to get a view of the total-body. Patients are then forced to stay still for long periods of time which can be quite uncomfortable. A total-body scanner would allow for visibility of all the organ functions simultaneously as well as full observation of the parametric relationship.
Before the EXPLORER was built, there was no prototype or evidence of the feasibility of such a project. Zhang was brought on to simulate all of the data from the total-body scanner, develop quantitative image reconstruction methods for the EXPLORER, and evaluate the performance compared to conventional scanners. His previous work was also the 2017 top first download paper of Physics in Medicine & Biology and the second paper among the 70+ subscription journals of Institute of Physics Publishing (IOP). The EXPLORER was able to produce a substantial increase in the signal-to-noise ratio, resulting in significantly better image quality. This award-winning paper is the first total-body parametric imaging study. It combines dynamic kernel-regularization and direct reconstruction with the world’s first 194 cm long total-body PET scanner and is expected to have a significant impact on potential applications in clinical research and healthcare studies.
Zhang was presented with the award at this year’s SNMMI Highlights Symposium. “It’s the greatest honor to receive this award. It’s a top recognition of all the team’s effort and everybody’s incredible support for our project.”