Jan-Mendelt Tillema, M.D.
Jan-Mendelt Tillema, M.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is looking forward to utilizing all aspects of the KL2 Program to establish his career trajectory as an independent clinical researcher in pediatric neuroimaging.
Diseases that predominantly affect the white matter and central nervous system (CNS) inflammatory conditions have benefited greatly from improvements in neuroimaging and have led to direct translation into clinical use. Dr. Tillema strongly believes that the translation of improved applications of MRI can serve as clinical biomarkers of pediatric white matter disease, including, but not limited to, multiple sclerosis (MS).
"The potential to better correlate imaging findings to clinical symptoms is the driving force behind my enthusiasm and interest in quantitative approaches of MRI analysis, as this could affect the long-term outcome of children affected with acquired or inherited white matter diseases," says Dr. Tillema.
His research interest is within the application of quantitative analysis methods of advanced MRI techniques in the earliest phases of MS. Despite extensive use of MRI and advanced neuropathology methods, much is still unknown about the exact pathophysiology of MS. In combination with the discrepancy between clinical disease severity and MRI findings, this suggests that improvements in advanced MRI techniques could answer some of the questions regarding the development of clinical deficits in MS.
As better therapies become available, the development of novel imaging analysis tools has significant relevance in the prognosis and longitudinal monitoring of MS disability. Such tools in addition may turn out useful in white matter diseases beyond MS, which predominantly affect children.
Dr. Tillema says the ability to apply quantitative advanced MRI research in neurology requires a strong multidisciplinary approach as one of the key components, integrating clinical and basic scientific knowledge with bench research in MRI.
Mayo Clinic has strong research programs in these areas, and the importance for further expansion is recognized to develop and utilize clinically relevant MRI analysis tools. Mayo is also part of a national consortium to study pediatric demyelinating disease, and development of such tools could have a direct impact on the care of these patients.
Dr. Tillema says the collaboration between MS neurologists, pediatric neurologists, experts in MS pathology, neuroradiology and physics is possible at Mayo.
As a KL2 scholar, Dr. Tillema says the combination of theoretical and practical training enables the development of a unique skill set in MRI analysis that can be translated into larger studies to understand MS better in the earliest stages of the disease.
"This is an important stepping stone in establishing my independent research career at Mayo," says Dr. Tillema.