UW Radiology

Human Research

Our laboratory is a pre-eminent laboratory in developing state-of-the-art optical (OS) and magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) methods for non-invasive measurements of metabolism and flow in human in vivo.  Our work is focused on translating high-sensitivity spectroscopic tools and basic science insights of cell and vascular pathophysiology into new tools for disease diagnosis.  This program in Metabolic Spectroscopy is complementary to Molecular Imaging approaches by uniquely providing high-sensitivity detection and in vivo quantitative measurement of key metabolic fluxes relevant to diabetes and metabolic disorders, cancer, aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Our work is directed to three goals.


  • Discovery Identifying and quantifying key signaling molecules that regulate tissue function and underlie disease at the cellular level in vivo is made possible by high-sensitivity OS and MRS measurements.  A current project is measurement of low concentration signaling molecules in brain centers regulating food intact, body weight and satiety.  Identification of biomarkers in Huntington’s disease, ALS and aging is also in progress.


  • Development – New methods for direct measurement of cell metabolism, oxygenation and blood flow in vivo are developed by a multidisciplinary team composed of physicists, physiologists and physician-scientist.  Recent advances include the first quantitative in vivo measurements of mitochondrial oxygen consumption and of tissue perfusion.  A new research  program focused on Mitochondrial Medicine has resulted from the insights gained from quantifying dynamic energetic fluxes and tissue blood flow.  This work is focused on the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in aging, type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases in vivo in human tissues.


  • Diagnosis – An important shortfall in current clinical tools lies not only in technology by also our in understanding of cell pathophysiology.  To overcome these limitations, we combine state-of-the-art non-invasive technology coupled with basic science studies of the physiology of disease to guide development of novel diagnostic tools.  The tools are designed to 1) diagnose presymptomatic disease changes, 2) reveal the degree of disease progression, and 3) show the effectiveness of a intervention designed to treat the disease.