redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Full-body MRI scans could someday be a regular part of a person´s annual medical check-up, thanks to the efforts of researchers at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center who are reportedly working on faster and less expensive magnetic resonance imaging technology.
Their efforts, which are detailed in the latest edition of the journal Nature, could lead to full-body scans that could easily detect various types of cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments before they become more difficult to treat.
The technology would operate on the basis that each type of body tissue and different types of diseases have unique fingerprints that could be used to quickly diagnose various biological issues, the researchers explained.
By using new MRI-type technology known as magnetic resonance fingerprinting (MRF) to scan for different physical properties at the same time, they were able to discern amongst white matter, gray matter, and cerebrospinal fluid in approximately 12 seconds. Furthermore, they believe that they will eventually be able to do so even faster.
“The overall goal is to specifically identify individual tissues and diseases, to hopefully see things and quantify things before they become a problem,” Dr. Mark Griswold, a radiology professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said in a statement. “But to try to get there, we’ve had to give up everything we knew about the MRI and start over.”
MRF technology would reduce the time it takes to get a full-body scan to just minutes while also providing far more information than current MRI equipment. In addition, unlike today´s scans, the MRF readings would not require a radiologist in order to interpret the results, also making them more affordable to patients.
To help explain the difference between MRI and MRF, Griswold compares them to a pair of performing musical groups. “In the traditional MRI, everyone is singing the same song and you can tell who is singing louder, who is off-pitch, who is singing softer, but that’s about it,” he said. “With an MRF, we hope that with one step we can tell the severity and exactly what’s happening in that area.”
In addition to Griswold, researchers working on the enhanced technology include Vikas Gulani, an assistant professor of radiology, and Nicole Seiberlich, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, both of Case Western. The three of them have been working on MRF for a decade.
During the past three years, they have been joined by graduate student Dan Ma, Kecheng Liu of Siemens Medical Solutions, radiologist Jeffrey L. Sunshine of UH Case Medical Center, and Case School of Engineering dean and biomedical engineering professor Jeffrey L. Duerk. During that time, they have proved the concept and developed the technology, and over the next few years, they hope to reduce the scanning time required and continue building the library of so-called biological fingerprints utilized by the MRF scanner.