Cho receives grant to extend research on accessible MRI mapping of oxygen metabolism

By Elizabeth Egan 

Published December 22, 2023

Junghun Cho, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, has received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R00 grant to continue his research on the development and validation of MRI mapping of oxygen metabolism for clinical use. 

“The aims of my R00 grant are to develop a novel OEF data acquisition and processing algorithm and validate it. ”
Junghun Cho.

The research award, supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, will provide more than $738,000 over the next three years.

The study will focus on creating a method to quantitatively map oxygen extraction fraction (OEF) in a way that is noninvasive, challenge-free and widely available. OEF is the amount of oxygen that tissue extracts as blood passes through the blood vessels and can serve as an essential biomarker for determining tissue viability, which can be critical in determining patient care strategies.  

Cho shares the example of an acute ischemic stroke that occurs when blockage of a blood vessel restricts blood flow to the brain and causes brain cells to die, damaging tissue. Testing for an elevated OEF could indicate to clinicians whether there is salvageable tissue, which can then be targeted for therapeutic intervention. Similar methods can be applied to people with Alzheimer’s disease. Cho is working to create an OEF method that can be used in a clinical setting.

“The aims of my R00 grant are to develop a novel OEF data acquisition and processing algorithm and validate it,” said Cho. “I hope to have a novel, widely available and established MRI toolset for quantitative brain oxygenation mapping, which will be of great help for cerebrovascular (brain and blood vessels) patient care.”

The grant is a part of the NIH’s K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, intended to transition postdoctoral researchers into independent, tenure-track faculty positions. Cho received the K99 grant as a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University in 2021. He became eligible for the R00 portion when he joined the University at Buffalo as an assistant professor in 2022.

Cho’s research interests include functional neuroimaging, magnetic resonance imaging, biophysics modeling, data processing and quantitative mapping of cerebral oxygenation.