Joseph Ackerman

Professor Emeritus of Chemistry
William Greenleaf Eliot Professor Emeritus
PhD, Colorado State University
BA, Boston University
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contact info:

mailing address:

  • CB 1134
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
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Professor Ackerman's research interests include Biological Chemistry; Biophysical Chemistry; Biophysics; Cancer; Cells; In Vivo Magnetic Resonance; Living Systems; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Magnetic Resonance; Neuroscience; Physical Chemistry Plants; Small-Animal Models.

Magnetic Resonance of Intact Biological Systems: Ackerman and collaborators within the Biomedical MR Laboratory (BMRL) are focused on the development and application of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and imaging (MRI) for study of intact, functioning biological systems representing both Animalia and Plantae Kingdoms. Cell/tissue function and structure are accessible via MR methods, advantages of which include: ● non-ionizing radiation (MR techniques are inherently non-invasive and non-destructive); ●simultaneous, multi-component metabolic analysis; and ● sensitivity to subtle changes in motion/displacement, magnetic susceptibility, and structure at the molecular, micro-, and mesocopic levels. Two projects serve to illustrate this theme.

Diffusion-Sensitive MR: The incoherent displacement motion of tissue water is hindered and restricted by various micro-structural barriers. Mammalian tissue water diffusion can be readily monitored by MR and has proven of great value in characterizing a variety of normal and pathologic states, providing a unique means to assess/quantify cancer progression and therapy, neurodegenerative diseases, and developmental neurobiology. Unfortunately, the manner in which the MR water diffusion signal encodes tissue microstructure and function remains poorly understood. Thus, elucidating the biophysical phenomena governing water diffusion in tissue systems is a critical area of MR research, and the BMRL is prominent in this arena. Ackerman and collaborators employ diffusion-sensitive MR methods with carefully chosen model systems ranging from cultured cells, to small animals (mice, rats), to humans, in concert with efforts to develop biophysical models that quantitatively describe the effects of various micro-structural barriers as reflected in the MR diffusion signal.

Radiation Necrosis: Radiation therapy is the most efficient treatment to cure or mitigate malignant brain tumors. However, approximately 20% of patients experience radiation necrosis six or more months following therapy and the presence of radiation necrosis complicates/masks the identification/diagnosis of recurrent tumor. MRI methods hold promise for quantitative assessment of radiation necrosis but development has been hampered by lack of a well-developed small-animal model of radiation necrosis in which specific focal regions of mouse brain are targeted, a sine qua non for such studies. Gamma Knife irradiation (~200 low-dose radiation beams directed to an isocenter) enables single-hemisphere mouse-brain irradiation. This provides a powerful platform for development and validation of quantitative radiation-necrosis assessment by MRI, a research program ongoing in the BMRL.


J.J.H. Ackerman and J.J. Neil, “The Use of MR-detectable Reporter Molecules and Ions to Evaluate Diffusion in Normal and Ischemic Brain”, NMR Biomed., 23: 725-733 (2010).

J.J.H. Ackerman and J.J. Neil, "Biophysics of Diffusion in Cells” in Diffusion MRI: Theory, Methods and Applications (D Jones, ed.), Ch 8, Pgs 110-124, Oxford U. Press, Oxford, 2010.

J.R. Anderson, Q. Ye, J.J.Neil, J.J.H. Ackerman, and J.R. Garbow, “Diffusion Effects on Longitudinal Relaxation in Poorly Mixed Compartments”, J. Magn. Reson., 211: 30-36 (2011).

W.M. Spees, N. Buhl, P. Sun, J.J.H. Ackerman, J.J. Neil, and J.R. Garbow, “Quantification and Compensation of Eddy Current-Induced Magnetic Field Gradients”, J. Magn. Reson., 212: 116-123 (2011).

W.M. Spees, S.-K. Song, J.R. Garbow, J.J. Neil, and J.J.H. Ackerman, "The Use of Ethylene Glycol to Evaluate Gradient Performance in Gradient-Intensive Diffusion MR Sequences", Magn. Reson. Med., 68: 319-324 (2012).

X. Ge, D.A. d'Avignon, J.J.H. Ackerman, A. Collavo, M. Sattin, E.L. Ostrander, E.L. Hall, R.D. Sammons, and C. Preston, "Vacuolar Glyphosate-Sequestration Correlates with Glyphosate Resistance in Ryegrass (Lolium spp.) from Australia, South America and Europe: a 31P-NMR Investigation", J. Agric. Food Chem., 60: 1243-1250 (2012).

Awards & Honors

2011-present Founding Member, Board of Trustees, World Molecular Imaging Society. 2010-2011 Member and Treasurer, Board of Trustees, Academy of Molecular Imaging. 2007-2010 Council Chair, Institute for Molecular Imaging Science, Academy of Molecular Imaging. 2006-2008 Chair, In Vivo Magnetic Resonance Gordon Conference, 2008; Vice Chair 2006. 2004-present Member, Board of Trustees, Sigma-Aldrich (Charitable) Foundation. 2003 Fellow, St. Louis Academy of Science. 2001-2003 President, Dynamic MR Spectroscopy Study Group, International. Soc. Magn. Reson. Medicine. 1999-present Associate Editor, Journal of Magnetic Resonance. 1999 Chair, National Cancer Institute focus group on MR Spectroscopy in Clinical Oncology, NIH. 1998-1999 President, Cancer Study Group, International Soc. Magn. Reson. Medicine and Chair, ISMRM November ’98 St. Louis Workshop: MR in Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research. 1997 Fellow, International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 1992 Gold Medal Award, (International) Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 1989-present President and Trustee, Dan Broida/Sigma-Aldrich Corporation Scholarship Foundation. 1989 William Simpson Award for Excellence in Experimental Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Wayne State University. 1989-1994 Editorial Board, Concepts in Magnetic Resonance: An Educational Quarterly, NMR Concepts, Kingston, RI. 1988-1991 Executive Committee, Experimental NMR Conference (ENC), Inc. 1987-2003 Editorial Board, NMR In Biomedicine, Heyden and Son, London. 1987 St. Louis Award, St. Louis Section of the American Chemical Society. 1987-1989 Standing member, NIH Biophysical Chemistry Study Section B. 1986-1989 Member, Board of Trustees, (International) Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 1984-1989 Vice President and Trustee, Dan Broida/Sigma-Aldrich Corporation Scholarship Foundation.