Imaging & Comprehensive Diagnostics
RWTH Aachen University contributed significantly to the implementation of new instrumentation such as the first fully digital PET insert for MRI, simultaneous MR/PET/EEG, and superresolution ultrasound. Furthermore, multiple (molecular) diagnostic probes, of which some were successfully translated into clinical evaluation, were developed to characterize diseases and to improve the understanding of their pathophysiology. This includes radiotracers, molecular probes for ultrasound, optical imaging, MRI, MPI, PET, SPECT as well as companion diagnostics and nano-sized drug delivery systems, which are investigated and developed in the DFG funded Research Training Group on “Tumor Targeted Drug Delivery”. This research will be continued and intensified, predominantly aiming at improving and increasing clinical translation.
Moreover, it became clear that new IT tools using artificial intelligence and, more specifically, deep learning applications, natural language processing and decision support systems will profoundly change future diagnostic procedures. They will allow integrating multiple imaging features and combining them with other diagnostic data, e.g. originating from clinical chemistry, as well as genomic, proteomic, physical/psychopathological, and electrophysiological (e.g. EEG, ECG, visual and auditory testing) analyses. In this context, improving our research and infrastructure in digital pathology and high throughput omics analysis is another important aim. These measures will strengthen the interplay between diagnosis and therapy. Here, we see significant opportunities for improving the participation of surgical disciplines in our diagnostic projects. Furthermore, integrated diagnostics will open new avenues for systems’ biology and improve our understanding of pathophysiologies. Since the interdisciplinary concepts will have direct impact on the interaction of medical disciplines and the treatment of patients, we will also study the social and ethical aspects for medical doctors and patients. Here, the understanding and exploration of the challenges in comprehensive digital data integration and analysis will be an important growth area for research in the next funding period of the Excellence Initiative.