This summer I am working as a research intern for Dr. Hariri at the Hariri Imaging Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The Hariri Imaging Lab focuses on the development and clinical application of high-resolution optical imaging for early detection and diagnosis of pulmonary diseases, such as fibrotic lung disease and lung cancer. The Hariri Imaging Lab also aims to increase diagnostic yield through real-time lung tumor biopsy guidance as well as the integration of in vivo optical microscopy into the practice of clinical medicine and pathology. This would create a form of virtual microscopy so that tissue removal would not be needed.
Currently, the Hariri Imaging Lab is performing clinical studies to evaluate how well in vivo imaging can detect disease in the lungs. In addition, there are translational studies which aim to create imaging criteria for in vivo imaging based on excised human tissue. The Hariri Imaging lab is developing new technology to enhance imaging modalities to identify disease.
Before the start of the internship, I had no prior experience with lung pathology or Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). Therefore, I spent a week before I went to the lab reading many research papers Dr. Hariri’s lab published as well as research papers on the physics and purpose of OCT in pathology, which is the technology that is primarily used in this lab.
Once I officially started working at the lab, the research team gave me a tour of the lab and showed me one of the OCT machines, which helped me better understand the technicalities of the papers I had previously read. For the first three days, I was introduced to the more clinical and medical side of lung pathology by observing clinical procedures and surgeries. I gained an understanding of the medical process of diagnosis and treatment by watching a resident resect a lung and then observing how Dr. Hariri diagnoses the biopsy and creates a treatment plan.
Currently, I am assisting with the research aspect of the Hariri Imaging Lab. I am working directly with the research technician to figure out a way to streamline the diagnostic process of fibrotic lung disease. I have been working on the digital manipulation of histopathological tissue samples by classifying different tissue regions. I also have been segmenting the histology slides so that the computer is able to process the histology more easily. These steps are necessary to digitalize this process. We are hoping that this digitalization of the diagnostic process will assist pathologists in determining the progression of fibrotic disease.
To date, I have already increased my knowledge of lung anatomy and the progression of disease in a formal setting. I am challenged and enjoy learning the research lab methodology that incorporates both science and medicine and with many different people in the process. I am excited to better understand the research that the Hariri Imaging Lab is focusing on each day and to learn the magnitude of impact this research has on a global scale and the importance of translational and clinical research in medicine.