Skip to main content

Christopher Dillon

Assistant Professor
Mechanical Engineering

360Q EB
Provo, UT 84602

Biography

Office Hours
MW: 1:00 - 2:00 PM
F: 1:00 PM
Dr. Dillon is often available to meet at other times. Feel free to stop by his office (EB 360Q) or send him an email to schedule a meeting.

Dr. Christopher R. Dillon joined the BYU mechanical engineering faculty in 2021. Prior to coming to BYU, he spent four years as a Senior Computer Scientist at Sandia National Laboratories (’18-’21), where he developed and validated finite-element computational models of assembled systems in fire environments. As a postdoc in the Department of Radiology at the University of Utah (’14-’17), he was the recipient of a NIH NRSA fellowship supporting his work in non-invasively characterizing thermal, acoustic, and MRI properties of uterine fibroids. He received a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from BYU (’09) and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Utah (’14).

Dr. Dillon loves how meshing mechanical and biomedical engineering enables the application of traditional engineering principles in novel ways to impact individuals and society for good. His current research areas include characterization of human tissue properties and bioheat transfer modeling for magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thermal therapies.

Dr. Dillon served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Albania from 2002 to 2004. He loves reading children’s books and having dance parties with his four children, mountain biking in the canyons of the Wasatch Front, and trying out recipes from The Great British Baking Show.

Research

The Bioheat Transfer Laboratory broadly engages in improving thermal therapies for the treatment of cancer and other disorders. Focused research areas include characterization of human tissue properties and bioheat transfer modeling for magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thermal therapies. The lab aims to generate collaborative opportunities within and external to BYU, provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in basic to clinical research, and advance therapies with enormous potential for improving cancer treatment outcomes and patients’ quality of life.

Why thermal therapies?
Therapies that ablate diseased tissue by the deposition of thermal energy can eliminate scalpel-driven surgical procedures, reducing both risk for infection and patient recovery times. They exclude ionizing radiation. In cases of recurrence, thermal therapies can be repeated without negative cumulative effects. Many vehicles for delivering thermal energy are in use and development, including FUS, radiofrequency (RF) ablation, laser treatments, and cryotherapy. If such therapies were consistently efficacious, cancer treatment paradigms could change radically.

Lab goals
While thermal therapies achieve their effect by driving energy into the target tissue, blood perfusion can simultaneously draw heat away, negating the treatment. Further, cancerous tumors and other pathologies exhibit highly variable vascularity, which is difficult to quantify and predict. When unaccounted for or poorly modeled, heat transport via these vessels increases thermal therapy unpredictability and can decrease the treatment’s benefit to the patient. The Bioheat Transfer Laboratory aims to address these issues with the goals described below. Our success will lead to accurate personalized treatment planning, improved consistency and safety of treatments, and greater clinical acceptance for thermal therapies.

Our group has previously developed a novel technique that uses 3D MRI temperature data to quantify perfusion-related thermal energy losses. However, in the pretreatment setting, the technique’s required heating is unacceptable. Recent MRI developments in perfusion quantification have opened the possibility of finding a link between non-heating perfusion measurements and the perfusion-related losses we can quantify. Establishing this link is a primary goal of the Bioheat Transfer Laboratory and will advance the goal of personalized and accurate treatment planning.

This technique for quantifying perfusion-related losses can also be used to evaluate models of bioheat transfer. A second Bioheat Transfer Laboratory goal includes the first study to use fully three-dimensional temperature data to critically evaluate the Pennes bioheat transfer equation (the most commonly applied biothermal model) and its spatiotemporal approximations. Future efforts include the development of a new equation to describe general bioheat transfer that would embrace the benefits of the Pennes model for diffuse capillary flow while addressing its limitations with improved local vascular modeling using convective vessel networks.

Subcutaneous fat negatively impacts FUS treatment efficiency by absorbing ultrasonic energy before it has reached the target tissue. Additionally, an unexpected change in fat’s MRI signal intensity has been observed to occur during treatments just before FUS efficiency drops quickly. Despite its clear impact on FUS treatments, fat’s dynamic properties are not clearly understood. The Bioheat Transfer Laboratory is developing tools to systematically measure the thermal, acoustic, and MRI properties of fat as a function of temperature. The characterization of these properties will progress from ex vivo fat samples to a small animal model, and finally to clinical implementation with ongoing collaborators at institutions currently performing MRgFUS treatments.

Research Interests

The Bioheat Transfer Laboratory broadly engages in improving thermal therapies for the treatment of cancer and other disorders. Focused research areas include characterization of human tissue properties and bioheat transfer modeling for magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thermal therapies. The lab aims to generate collaborative opportunities within and external to BYU, provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in basic to clinical research, and advance therapies with enormous potential for improving cancer treatment outcomes and patients’ quality of life.

Why thermal therapies?
Therapies that ablate diseased tissue by the deposition of thermal energy can eliminate scalpel-driven surgical procedures, reducing both risk for infection and patient recovery times. They exclude ionizing radiation. In cases of recurrence, thermal therapies can be repeated without negative cumulative effects. Many vehicles for delivering thermal energy are in use and development, including FUS, radiofrequency (RF) ablation, laser treatments, and cryotherapy. If such therapies were consistently efficacious, cancer treatment paradigms could change radically.

Lab goals
While thermal therapies achieve their effect by driving energy into the target tissue, blood perfusion can simultaneously draw heat away, negating the treatment. Further, cancerous tumors and other pathologies exhibit highly variable vascularity, which is difficult to quantify and predict. When unaccounted for or poorly modeled, heat transport via these vessels increases thermal therapy unpredictability and can decrease the treatment’s benefit to the patient. The Bioheat Transfer Laboratory aims to address these issues with the goals described below. Our success will lead to accurate personalized treatment planning, improved consistency and safety of treatments, and greater clinical acceptance for thermal therapies.

Our group has previously developed a novel technique that uses 3D MRI temperature data to quantify perfusion-related thermal energy losses. However, in the pretreatment setting, the technique’s required heating is unacceptable. Recent MRI developments in perfusion quantification have opened the possibility of finding a link between non-heating perfusion measurements and the perfusion-related losses we can quantify. Establishing this link is a primary goal of the Bioheat Transfer Laboratory and will advance the goal of personalized and accurate treatment planning.

This technique for quantifying perfusion-related losses can also be used to evaluate models of bioheat transfer. A second Bioheat Transfer Laboratory goal includes the first study to use fully three-dimensional temperature data to critically evaluate the Pennes bioheat transfer equation (the most commonly applied biothermal model) and its spatiotemporal approximations. Future efforts include the development of a new equation to describe general bioheat transfer that would embrace the benefits of the Pennes model for diffuse capillary flow while addressing its limitations with improved local vascular modeling using convective vessel networks.

Subcutaneous fat negatively impacts FUS treatment efficiency by absorbing ultrasonic energy before it has reached the target tissue. Additionally, an unexpected change in fat’s MRI signal intensity has been observed to occur during treatments just before FUS efficiency drops quickly. Despite its clear impact on FUS treatments, fat’s dynamic properties are not clearly understood. The Bioheat Transfer Laboratory is developing tools to systematically measure the thermal, acoustic, and MRI properties of fat as a function of temperature. The characterization of these properties will progress from ex vivo fat samples to a small animal model, and finally to clinical implementation with ongoing collaborators at institutions currently performing MRgFUS treatments.

Teaching Interests

ME EN 321: Thermodynamics- Winter 2022

Education

  • PhD, Bioengineering , Biomechanics, University of Utah (2014)
  • BS, Mechanical Engineering , Brigham Young University (2009)

Courses Taught