As a child, lost memories, misplaced car keys, and late stays at my school's aftercare after being forgotten to pick up were a constant reminder of my grandfather's Alzheimer's symptoms. Now as a high school researcher, I am motivated to investigate treatments for the disease that once distanced my loved ones away from me. My research project presents an interdisciplinary approach combining computer science, biomedical engineering, and robotics to automate the treatment of disease and disorders with a surgical robot. Using transcranial focused ultrasound (FUS), a recently emerging therapeutic device that emits ultrasonic energy to target specific areas of the brain for treatment, I developed an end-to-end framework to simulate and optimize FUS transducers for automatic Alzheimer's disease therapy. Not only is this framework relevant to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but it also has clinical applications in the opening of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) for improved drug delivery, thermal ablation of cancer tumors, and treatment for Essential Tremor, depression, etc.
I began this research project during the 2022 Research Science Institute (RSI) summer program. Each student was assigned to a mentor based on our passions and interests in STEM. After the initial assignment, I independently connected with my mentor to devise and work on a unique research project. I had the opportunity to work at a biotechnology company called Zeta Surgical where I received the resources and support to progress with my project.
With cases of Alzheimer's disease on the rise nationally, my FUS algorithms can help alleviate and treat symptoms of various of these neurodegenerative diseases. It also has the potential to augment drug therapy by precisely targeting areas of the BBB. With the help of microbubbles, FUS temporarily increases the permeability of the BBB, allowing the passage of drug molecules to desired areas of the brain; this treatment can be used with any drug for any disease, greatly improving the chances of curing disease and increasing the likelihood of patient survival. Currently, FUS is being researched in clinical trials and shows great potential in treating mental illnesses such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder. My automatic and precise robot-assisted placement and delivery of FUS helps make all these treatments more accessible to people around the nation and around the world. I would like to replicate my FUS algorithm and surgical robot to create real-world products that can be utilized by hospitals for diverse medical treatments from cancer therapy to treatment for depression. My framework for modeling the skull and simulating FUS can be further explored for different therapeutic devices to expand their positive impact on the world. Overall, my novel acoustic simulation and optimization of transcranial FUS is a precise method for carrying out a diverse array of medical treatments that can bring various positive benefits to human life.