Professor Christine Hendon Wins NSF CAREER Award

Christine Hendon, assistant professor of electrical engineering, has won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for her project, “Structure-Functional Imaging of the Atrial Myocardium.” The five year $500,000 grant will support her work on using optical imaging and spectroscopy as a means to monitor radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, treatment of cardiac arrhythmias.

—Photo by Eileen Barroso

“The NSF CAREER award is an important step forward for me and the team in my Structure-Function Imaging Laboratory, and I am very proud to have won it,” says Hendon. “The grant will enable us to directly interrogate the heart for tissue characterization that will improve RFA efficacy to terminate atrial fibrillation, the most common arrhythmia. And, if we are successful, this will be the first real-time imaging tool capable of assisting in this very common surgical procedure.”

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is characterized by quivering of the atria due to unorganized electrical activity. Those with AF run the risk of stroke due to blood clots developed in the atria or heart failure from lack of pumped blood. It is critical that AF be diagnosed properly to ensure patients receive adequate treatment before significant complications occur. The success rates for radiofrequency ablation procedures are 56% to 85%, and many patients need two treatments to result in chronic successful termination of the arrhythmia.

For her CAREER project, Hendon plans to use optical modalities in combination with functional electrogram analysis to analyze how tissue microstructure influences electrical conduction patterns and provide real-time guidance of RFA energy delivery. She and her team will map human atrial fiber orientation patterns using optical coherence tomography, measure radiofrequency ablation lesion depth with spectroscopy, and integrate near-infrared spectroscopy analysis and real-time analysis of electrograms and ECGs for guidance of radiofrequency ablation for improved efficacy.

Through this project, Hendon hopes to increase recruitment of minority and female students into graduate programs of engineering. She will aim to increase diversity within graduate STEM programs by actively participating in summer undergraduate research programs, as well as mentoring and recruiting a diverse graduate admissions pool. She will also participate in the Franklin Institute’s annual Color of Science program, providing hands-on demonstrations to middle school students on optics and the heart.

“My goal with these outreach opportunities is to expand and foster the pipeline of young students interested in studying a STEM discipline,” Hendon adds.

Hendon’s research interests are in developing optical imaging and spectroscopy instruments for applications in cardiac electrophysiology and interventional cardiology. In 2014, she was awarded an NIH New Innovator Award and, in 2013, she was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list of game changers in science and health care.

Original article here.

—by Holly Evarts

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