Professor works to develop prototype cerebral scannerCho Zang-hee, 70, heads the Gachon University of Medicine and Science’s cerebral science center, to which, despite his age, he still devotes much of his time.
The center has 40 researchers with Ph.D.s in various disciplines such as medical science, engineering, physics, biology and even psychology.
“Life and study is also a fusion. If something is to be created, there needs to be a concept of fusion,” Mr. Cho said.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering, Mr. Cho earned a Ph.D. in physics from Uppsala University in Sweden. In 1975, as an assistant professor at the University of California, he developed the world’s first positron emission tomography, or PET, scanner, which is used to detect cancer cells. For his contributions to science, he was made a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States.
Mr. Cho emphasizes the fusion of information technologies and biotechnologies. “It is a global trend that information technology curriculums and biotechnology curriculums are combined,” he said.
In 2004, he moved to his current school in Incheon from the University of California in Irvine. He is currently working on a project to synthesize a PET scanner and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to create a PET-MRI. The university has invested more than 30 billion won ($32 million) in the project.
For now, the most powerful PET is the High Resolution Research Tomograph-PET, and the most powerful MRI is a 7-tesla MRI. These machines are installed in seven research centers in the world and the cerebral science center at Gachon University is the only institution that has both. Siemens donated the machines because of Mr. Cho’s reputation.
A team led by Mr. Cho has been successful in reducing the time of HRRT-PET images from 2 hours to 10 minutes.
The team also succeeded in capturing the images of the medulla oblongata and arteries in the thalamic nucleus, where strokes occur most frequently, using the 7-tesla MRI.
“In the past, it was possible to look at microscopic structures only through angiography, but now we can look at them without angiography,” Mr. Cho said. “A new age of cerebral imaging will come.”
by Shim Jae-woo