Technology

"...  all our research was carried out at the École de Physique et de Chimie de la Ville de Paris. In all scientific production, the environment that we work in has a major impact, and a part of the results we achieve is due to this impact."

Pierre Curie, conference at the Sorbonne, February 18, 1904

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Ultrasound research has a rich legacy at the leading French engineering school ESPCI Paris, the birthplace of Iconeus. Radium, polonium, actinium, lutecium and many objects from our everyday lives such as the neon tube, the black box, the quartz watch, wireless technology and self-healing rubber were first discovered or created at ESPCI (an abbreviation of the full French name École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris), located in the historical Latin quarter of Paris, a world-renowned center of higher education and research since the 13th century. It's here that the first demonstration of the reverse piezoelectric effect, at the base of modern ultrasound technology, was conducted in 1881 by Pierre Curie, who later became an ESPCI professor and Nobel Prize winner. His doctoral student, Paul Langevin, also later an ESPCI professor, discovered, together with his co-workers the first practical application for piezoelectric devices in sonar, developed during World War I to detect enemy submarines.

Humbly following this path, functional ultrasound (fUS) imaging using ultra-high sensitivity Doppler imaging, based on plane wave acquisitions, was pioneered by Mickael Tanter, now head of the Physics for Medicine lab (ESPCI Paris / INSERM / CNRS). With his co-workers he proposed that very high frame-rate imaging would radically improve Doppler imaging sensitivity and this led to a breakthrough in the form of a novel neuro-functional imaging modality (Nature Methods, 2011). Since then, continuous innovation, benchmarked with a series of key INSERM patents on fUS technology (now exclusively licensed to Iconeus) and an Advanced ERC Grant (www.fultrasound.eu), leveraged the technology from the physics bench to neuroscience research centers and ultimately to hospitals and clinics. The team has built an extensive network of collaboration with neuroscientists and clinicians, resulting in dozens of publications in top-tier journals including Nature, Nature Methods and Science Translational Medicine.

In 2014, the team of Prof. Tanter published a seminal paper with the team of Dr. Zsolt Lenkei, from the Neurobiology Laboratory of ESPCI Paris, demonstrating the capacity of fUS to image functional connectivity in rat brains, in a minimally invasive way (Osmanski et al. Nature Communications, 2014). Realizing, together with their collegues Dr. Mathieu Pernot and Dr. Thomas Deffieux, the enormous potential of fUS imaging for neuroscience and the need for a high-end, plug-and-play fUS solution, they founded Iconeus in 2016, inviting the health-industry specialist Ludovic Lecointre, now CEO, and the Tanter Lab alumnus Dr. Bruno Osmanski, now CTO, to be co-founders. Together with the Iconeus team, they implement the mission of Iconeus – to facilitate access to advanced fUS technology for research teams all around the world.

How does functional ultrasound technology work?

Our technology is based on the concept of a massively parallel ultrasound electronics able to produce thousands of ultrasonic images per second compared to the usual fifty frames per second with a conventional high frequency ultrasound imaging system. The key idea behind this revolution was to use multiple plane wave transmissions instead of sequential focused beams transmissions to ensure not only ultra-high framerate but also ultra-low noise images thanks to the multiplane wave approach.

In conventional high-frequency Doppler ultrasound system, only a few time samples are available for each pixel of the image, whereas with our multiplane wave technology, the whole-brain is recorded several thousands of times per second which ultimately leads to a 100 fold increase in Doppler sensitivity within the same acquisition time. This huge increase in sensitivity allows us to map subtle hemodynamic changes in the brain vascularization without being restricted to large vessels.

We can image the blood moving at velocities higher than 4 mm/s (arterioles of ~10µm) with excellent spatial resolution (100×100×400 µm3) and sensitivity high enough to detect hemodynamic changes of only 2% without averaging over different trials. Thus allowing imaging of brain activity through the neurovacular coupling.

Oh, and yes, we can even image the whole mouse brain activity at high resolution through the skull.

Transcranial imaging of the mouse brain during whisker stimulation, Jeremy Ferrier, Iconeus One

Iconeus One unique technology stack

Iconeus One technology stack relies on optimized blocks from ultrasound sequences, ultra-low noise and ultra-light probes, a robotic platform for automatic scan, a highly parallel and low noise ultrasound electronics, a real-time engine for beamforming and processing, an interactive live viewer and data explorer with advanced analysis tools. The Iconeus stack allows for plug-and-scan high-quality experiments.

What can fUS technology be used for?

Innovation and partnerships

Iconeus is a spin-off of the Physics for Medicine Institut in Paris, pioneer in functional ultrasound imaging technology and has a contract collaboration to foster innovations. The Institute (ESPCI Paris/INSERM/CNRS) is responsible of new innovative modes such as super resolution imaging or 4D functional ultrasound wich will be further developped and matured by Iconeus.

Iconeus is built on patented key technologies and is strongly committed to innovate for the benefice of our customers. Iconeus has built the workforce and capability to develop and implement innovative modes for our customers such as new probes and 4D imaging capability.

Please contact us directly to see how we can help you design and deliver on your next-level functional ultrasound project.

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