Technology.am (Sept. 15. 2009) — At the University of Illinois, new images from the world’s most powerful MRI machine are opening new possibilities for the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
“We are using the 9.4-T to develop a toolbox that allows us to see perturbations of tissue health at the very first sign of disease,” says Dr. Keith Thulborn, director of the UIC Center for Magnetic Resonance Research.
These tools will allow clinicians to gauge the health of the brain by showing the metabolic functioning of its tissue. The tools help to develop effective therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which damage the brain years before the appearance of clinical symptoms.
Working from 9.4-T images, they have developed a new metabolic-imaging toolbox that has three components. Each measures a different “bioscale” — a quantitative parameter that is measure of regional tissue health. A bioscale is different from a biomarker, which is a yes/no indicator of disease.
The first bioscale is sodium concentration, a measure of tissue viability. Sodium is pumped in and out of living cells — a cell no longer pumping sodium is dead.
The 9.4-T scanner provides a picture of tissue, such as a tumor during therapy, which indicates whether the cells are dying long before the mass begins to shrink in size, which is the usual indicator of treatment success.
The second bioscale in the toolbox is oxygen consumption, a more dynamic measure of tissue health and viability than sodium, according to Thulborn.
The third measure, phosphocreatine, gives a dynamic view of energy stores within the cell, telling whether the cell is metabolically stressed.
The metabolic toolbox will offer a way to treat each person as an individual and intervene in brain diseases that are difficult or impossible to detect before decades of damage.
Thulborn said, “It would have taken years and years to develop the insight and understanding to overcome the hurdles using the more widely available 3-T diagnostic MRI.”
But right now there are only four 9.4-T MRI machines in the world, and Thulborn recognizes that not everyone can be screened with these powerful magnets.
“To have an impact on medicine our toolbox has to be widely available,” he said. “We have used the 9.4-T’s sensitivity to develop this new way to see the disease process.