Helpern’s area of specialty is brain imaging from a perspective of a physicist. “I do medical research as a physicist by developing new imaging technologies.”
Helpern, Ph.D., is no newcomer to imaging. The director of MUSC’s Center for Biomedical Imaging is credited with building the first 3-Tesla MRI, a high-field version today considered state-of-the-art clinically. Recently, he and long-time collaborator Dr. Jens H. Jensen, also a physicist, developed diffusional kurtosis imaging (DKI), a new and important tool in the radiologist’s toolbox.
“The research we’ve been doing and the development of technology that we’re translating into the clinic is really exciting because it’s showing that we have exquisite sensitivity into imaging biomarkers early on into diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, stroke and many others.”
Helpern, who is director of MUSC’s Center for Biomedical Imaging, said the center has a strong team of scientists skilled in the art of imaging who work well together. He’s excited where the group is in advancing medicine across many fields. “I’m a strong believer in hallway conversations as a way of progressing science. It’s a physical center for scientists to get together to have impromptu talks on the chalkboard and get their ideas together. “
Imaging technology is critical in medicine now and used for the advancement in every specialty. “A dollar spent in advancing imaging technology is spread quite nicely in investing across the entire enterprise of medicine. Ask yourself, how much is it worth to look inside someone’s body without opening it? There was a time, a day, when we used to cut inside people’s bodies just to see what the problem was and we don’t do that much anymore.”
Before coming to MUSC in 2010, Helpern was the founding director of the Center for Biomedical Imaging at New York University School of Medicine. Helpern holds several patents in the field of MRI and has authored over 125 papers. He also hold’s a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a doctorate in medical physics from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Helpern is the recipient of the Excellence in Research Award from the New York State Office of Mental Health, is an elected Fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, and last year received the Distinguished Investigator Award by the Academy of Radiology Research.