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The Crouch Imaging Lab uses imaging to study various diseases at the basic science and translational science levels. Currently, we use preclinical ultrasound imaging to study cardiovascular biomechanics in various diseases and physiological states and mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) to study: spatial heterogeneity of biomolecules (lipids, metabolites, peptides) and distribution of drugs in organ tissues. Current projects:

Multi-omics Study of Alzheimer’s Disease

Our goal is to develop a multimodal research protocol to map phenotypic signatures of the brain that can be used to identify changes due to aging or disease. Better understanding of the spatial heterogeneity of phenotypic changes occurring during disease progression will allow more targeted diagnosis and treatment. We will use computational algorithms to integrate data we generate from mass spectrometry imaging, microscopy-guided single cell MS profiling, and spatial single-cell RNA sequencing from tissue sections of targeted brain regions to create a 3D atlas/map of a portion of the brain. To our knowledge, these 3 techniques have not been combined previously. The utility of our protocol will be assessed by comparing brains from wild-type vs. Alzheimer’s disease mouse models. Detailed 3D maps of the brain will aid discovery of new biomarkers and regulatory relationships that allow earlier diagnosis of neurological disorders as well as provide new targets for therapeutic development.

Collaborators: Dr. Thanh Do, Dr. Rebecca Prosser, Dr. Dan Jacobson

Blood Clot Composition

Venous thromboembolism and ischemic stroke affect over 1.5 million people yearly. Both diseases are a result of blood clots forming in venous or arterial vasculature.  Characterizing spatial heterogeneity and mechanical properties of blood clots is important for understanding disease initiation/progression. Molecular spatial heterogeneity can contribute to variations in mechanical properties, and we are currently using MALDI imaging to assess this spatial heterogeneity.

Collaborators: Dr. Bryan Good and Dr. Rahul Sheth

McDonald RG, Poulos DA, Woodall B, Gutzwiller L, Sheth RA, Good BC, Crouch AC.A MALDI Mass Spectrometry Imaging Sample Preparation Method for Venous Thrombosis with Initial Lipid Characterization of Lab-Made and Murine Clots. J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2023 Jul 13;. doi: 10.1021/jasms.3c00079. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 37439461.

Cardio-oncology: Cardiac biomechanics and lipidomics

Details coming soon.

Canine Sarcoma Characterization

The companion animal health market is currently valued at over $4 billion and is expected to continue growing. As with humans, cancer is a leading cause of companion animal morbidity and mortality, and dogs provide an advanced translational model compared to other preclinical models because of spontaneous tumor occurrence and larger size. Opportunities for canine cancer research include: (1) developing better diagnostics and treatments for companion animals and (2) conducting comparative research for the benefit of human health. This work is focused primarily on lipid characterization in sarcomas, which account for 10-15% of malignant tumors. Lipids play an important role in many biological functions including energy storage, cell structuring, and cell signaling, and strong evidence indicates cancer incidence and prognosis are strongly correlated with changes in lipid metabolism. Using mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), lipids were profiled in a case-study of a canine soft tissue sarcoma. 

Current Methods in the Lab: