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The Warsaw Voice » Other » August 13, 2008
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Ultrasound Research Rewarded
August 13, 2008   
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Andrzej Nowicki, a professor at the Warsaw Institute of Fundamental Technological Research (IPPT), has received an award from the Foundation for Polish Science for his work on ultrasound equipment that shows blood flow in color.

Precise diagnosis of the body's circulatory system is not possible without Doppler ultrasound to measure the speed and direction of blood flow. A Doppler ultrasound test uses reflected sound waves to evaluate blood as it flows through a blood vessel.

Doppler ultrasound is one research area that Nowicki has been working on for many years. Born in 1945, Nowicki graduated with a degree in electronics from the Warsaw University of Technology in 1969. He obtained a doctorate in 1976 and started working at the Institute of Fundamental Technological Research four years later. He became a professor in 1993 and a year later took over as head of the ultrasound department and deputy IPPT director for scientific affairs.

Nowicki researches ultrasound methods for measuring blood circulation around the body and through the heart using Doppler ultrasound. He also uses high-frequency ultrasound for images of the skin. Generally speaking, ultrasound facilitates diagnosis of human organ and tissue diseases by the way sound waves spread and are reflected. Doppler ultrasound is a typical example. It can identify blood that is in constant circulation, can assess how fast it is flowing, and to what degree blood vessels have narrowed. "This method additionally makes it possible to measure the speed of blood flow," Nowicki says.

The speed and direction of blood flow are color coded. Red and similar colors, from bright red through to burgundy, are used to depict different blood-flow speeds in one direction, and shades of blue are used for blood flow in the opposite direction. The minimum diameter of a blood vessel in which blood flow can be measured is some 1 mm, and this is dependent on the quality of the ultrasound equipment being used and the sound-wave frequency.

Much of Nowicki's own research and that done in collaboration with other scientists has found direct application in clinical diagnoses. Among his innovations is apparatus to measure blood flow around the body and in the head, and many types of ultrasounds.

Polish company Echo-son, based in Puławy, 120 km southeast of Warsaw, produces apparatus of this type, both mobile and fixed. The company was originally part of the Institute of Fundamental Technological Research tasked with building prototypes for researchers. Today Echo-son is an independent company. "This is a good example of collaboration between science and industry," Nowicki says.

Nowicki started researching the Doppler impulse method of measuring blood flow in real time in 1977. He continued this research during his yearlong secondment to the Institute of Applied Physiology and Medicine in Seattle, WA, in the United States. His unique method of muffling fixed echoes was the basis of his postdoctoral qualification. In 1981 he began working at the Seattle institute, assessing the narrowing of transplanted coronary arteries with the use of ultrasound. Of particular interest to him were blood circulation problems caused by atherosclerosis.

Between 1986 and 1990 Nowicki researched two-dimensional blood flow in the heart and blood vessels. The Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, USA, invited him to work in a team that was researching blood flow imaging in breast nipples affected by cancer. He also worked on ways of measuring blood flow in arteries in the brain.

Currently Nowicki is developing high-frequency micro-sound methods to obtain images of the anatomic structure of tissues and blood flow through very small vessels. This will be applicable in skin cancer diagnosis and the measurement of hematocrit levels.

Nowicki has written more than 140 publications and is the holder or co-holder of 13 patents. He has participated in more than 80 domestic and over 50 international symposia and conferences. He has won four long-term science grants to work in international research centers: the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; the Institute of Applied Physiology and Medicine in Seattle; and Philadelphia's Drexel University. In 1986 and 1987 he lectured Drexel University's electronics students on acoustics and ultrasound. Since then he has lectured in the United States during each fall semester. In 1998 he became a professor of Drexel University's School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health, and was awarded honorary professorship of the university in March 2005. He also lectures on the basics of ultrasound and the Doppler method at Poland's Center for Postgraduate Medical Training and the Polish Ultrasound Association. He is chairman of the latter.

Nowicki has seven scientific awards to his name, including three from the Polish Academy of Sciences and a state award for his development of ultrasound in medicine. In 1988, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine granted him the prestigious Pioneer Award in appreciation of his work on the development of ultrasound methods in medicine.

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