An electrical engineer's view of biomedical imaging and drug delivery

December 2, 2008
Professor Katherine Whittaker Ferrara, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Davis


Our laboratory has been developing instrumentation, signal processing methods and small particles that are used in medical imaging modalities including ultrasound, positron emission tomography and optical imaging. Our imaging methods are primarily used to characterize the physiological and molecular characteristics of malignant tumors, and we will review the challenges of in vivo molecular imaging. Currently, we have a strong focus on the development of small particles that encapsulate drugs and use exogenous energy to release the drug at the site. With such strategies, a greater volume and percentage of the drug is locally delivered and the systemic toxicity is reduced. Both the mechanical and thermal characteristics of ultrasound can be used to accomplish this goal. However, enhanced particle stability can be obtained by encapsulating small metallic particles within the vehicle and using electromagnetic waves to locally heat the metal and release the drug. This is a new area for our laboratory; our current system and opportunities for enhancement and collaboration will be described.


Katherine Whittaker Ferrara Following the BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering, Dr. Ferrara worked for Sound Imaging, Inc. Folsom, CA and for General Electric Medical Systems, Rancho Cordova, CA in the areas of magnetic resonance and ultrasound imaging, during 1983-1988. She received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science in 1989 from the University of California, Davis. From 1989-1993 she was an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Electrical Engineering at California State University, Sacramento. From 1993-1995, she was a principal member of the research staff at the Riverside Research Institute, New York, NY, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at Cornell University Medical School, and from 1995-1998 she was an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Since December of 1998, Dr. Ferrara has been Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering in the newly created Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, Davis.

Dr. Ferrara is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control. She chaired the technical program for the 1997 IEEE Ultrasonics Symposium. She is a member of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Xi and a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America. Her research interests are medical imaging and biomedical signal processing and particularly in the areas of ultrasonics and acoustics.