Director's Seminar on Nov. 6

William O'Brien, professor of electrical and computer engineering and full-time faculty member in the Bioacoustics Research Laboratory, will present on Thursday, November 6 at noon in Beckman room 1005. Lunch will be provided.

Early detection of preterm birth and fatty liver disease in humans using quantitative ultrasound

Two quantitative ultrasound (QUS) studies will be discussed that demonstrate significant potential for translation to human conditions. One of the studies deals with the early detection of spontaneous preterm birth (SPTB). In a cohort of 68 adult African American women, each agreed to undergo up to 5 transvaginal ultrasound examinations for cervical ultrasonic attenuation (at 5 MHz) and cervical length between 20 & 36 wks gestation (GA). Between 19 & 22 wks GA, the women who delivered preterm had a lower mean attenuation (0.98±0.16 dB/cm-MHz) than the women delivering at term (1.39±0.095 dB/cm-MHz), p= 0.041. Cervical length between 19 & 22 wks was not significantly different between groups. Attenuation risk of SPTB (1.2 dB/cm-MHz threshold): specificity = 71.4%, sensitivity = 62.9%. The other QUS study deals with the early detection of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Liver attenuation (ATN) and backscattered coefficients (BSC) were assessed at 3 MHz and compared to the liver MR-derived fat fraction (FF) in a cohort of 106 adult subjects. At a 5% FF (for NAFLD, FF ≥ 5%), an ATN threshold of 0.78 dB/cm-MHz provided a sensitivity of 89%, and specificity of 84% whereas a BSC threshold of 0.0028/cm-sr provided a sensitivity of 92% and specificity of 96%.


After receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1970, William D. O’Brien worked at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for five years. Since 1975, he has been at the University of Illinois, where he was granted emeritus professor status in 2012. Previously, he was the Donald Biggar Willet professor of engineering, and a professor of electrical and computer engineering and of bioengineering, College of Engineering; professor of bioengineering, College of Medicine; and professor of nutritional sciences, College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. He remains the director of the Bioacoustics Research Laboratory, a position he has held since 1995. His research focuses on the mechanisms by which ultrasonic energy interacts with biological materials (fundamental ultrasonic bioeffects/therapy/risk assessment research) and applications of quantitative ultrasound imaging in biology, agriculture, and medicine (fundamental ultrasonic imaging research). He has been director of the NIH Radiation Biophysics and Bioengineering Oncology (T32) Training Program, has published 393 peer-reviewed papers, and is the principal investigator of an NIH MERIT (R37) AWARD. He has served as president the IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society, editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, and president of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. He is a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, and a Founding Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.