Tuesday, September 27, 2016

URSP Student Shaun Meyer Detects Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

My name is Shaun Meyer and I am in my last year of Undergraduate Bioengineering degree.  My overriding reason for studying Bioengineering is to work on medical problems through quantitative analysis that affect large populations of patients.  I am driven to make a meaningful effect on the chronically sick population through Biomedical and Engineering methods, because I have lived through so many of the closest people in my life dying, due to lack of effective diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. 

I was given an opportunity early in 2016 to work with one of my most respected Bioengineering Professors.  Dr. Sikdar asked me if I would like to work with him at the Biomedical Imaging Lab, specifically working on some previously collect Ultrasound Liver d  I was very excited to be working on any project with Dr. Sikdar, and I accepted without hesitation.  In January of 2016, I had no experience with Liver, or Ultrasound, so I knew I would have to start my literature review immediately.  My research really started well before the summer, and I found that many Americans and Europeans suffer from something called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).  This disease at its most severe stage is known as Cirrhosis of the liver.  I had previously believed that Cirrhosis can only occur in people whom are alcoholics.  In case, fatty or alcohol caused Cirrhosis, is permanent, and the only treatment is Liver Transplant. 

My project was focused on detecting a much less severe case of NAFLD, commonly called Simple Fatty Liver.  There are no outward symptoms, and no reliable blood tests for this condition.  However, NAFLD has been linked to metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular/coronary artery disease (CVD/CAD).  Patients with these conditions should be preemptively screened for Simple Fatty Liver.  Currently, clinical diagnosis relies on subjective Radiologist opinions of what the Ultrasound scans look like.  During this summer, I have been testing and implementing Quantitative Ultrasound Techniques that can definitively and objectively detect simple fatty liver in patients at risk for CAD. 

I plan to continue working on this project for the remainder of my GMU career, and my hope for this research is that earlier and more effective screening for NAFLD can be accomplished and utilized clinically.