M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Grant Will Allow OHSU to Develop Unique Ultrasound Technologies for Treating and Preventing Heart Disease

02/21/11  Portland, Ore.

Heart experts agree that prevention and early diagnosis are the best ways to reduce the tragic toll of cardiovascular disease. Now, with help from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Oregon Health & Science University heart specialists will lead the way toward more precise and less-invasive methods for preventing, detecting and treating the nation’s Number 1 killer.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has awarded OHSU a $650,000 grant - its largest ever to the university - to construct an ultra-high-speed digital camera. The custom-built device - the first of its kind in the nation - will advance the diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities of “microbubble” technology, an emerging tool used in conjunction with ultrasound for advanced cardiovascular imaging. By enabling researchers to visualize how microbubbles behave in the body on the nanosecond (one billionth of a second) timeframe, this new camera will overcome the shortcomings of existing imaging instruments. Researchers envision the camera as a key catalyst in the development of new microbubble-based ultrasound devices.

New Camera Will Shed New Light on Microbubbles
Microbubbles are extremely small (1-10 micrometer) flexible shells encompassing air or inert gas. Specialists introduce them into the body, where their physical properties interact with ultrasound waves to provide detailed images of tissue and other diagnostic information. They pose no risk to the patient because of their small size. Microbubbles not only reveal specific disease locations in the body but also can deliver precise doses of drugs or genes to these sites for maximum therapeutic effectiveness.

By operating at nanosecond speeds, the new camera will enable scientists to directly observe these and other important microbubble mechanisms. Using this specialized camera, OHSU researchers will be able to better define microbubble-ultrasound interactions in both the laboratory and in living subjects. These studies will advance the development of novel ultrasound device technologies for repeatable and controllable microbubble-mediated ultrasound cardiovascular therapy.

“The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust is doing more than building a camera,” said Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Cardiology and head of OHSU’s division of cardiovascular medicine. “This generous grant will build research partnerships across OHSU that will impact human health throughout our region. And more broadly, because ultrasound technology is ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive, the technologies developed with this camera will put state-of-the-art techniques in the hands of healthcare providers in most parts of the world.”

OHSU has been a world leader in the cardiovascular applications of microbubble technology since it recruited Kaul in 2005. Kaul and his team pioneered cardiovascular imaging technologies based on microbubbles, and they are leading OHSU’s charge to bring unique and innovative technologies and research techniques to the university’s growing program in cardiovascular medicine.

In 1975, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust was created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, co-founder of Tektronix, Inc., and an innovative, entrepreneurial leader with business involvements and interests throughout the Pacific Northwest. The mission of the Trust is to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants and enrichment programs to organizations seeking to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.

The current grant is the largest award from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to OHSU, excluding a grant of $4 million to the former Oregon Graduate Institute of Science & Technology (now the OHSU School of Science & Engineering) just prior to its 2001 merger with OHSU. That gift, which established the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was a key enabling factor behind this successful and historic academic merger.


The OHSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to secure private philanthropic support for Oregon Health & Science University. The foundation raises funds from individuals, companies, foundations and organizations, and invests and manages gifts in accordance with donors’ wishes.