An MR scan in 5 minutes?

September 1, 2011

Imagine you could do an MR scanner in 5 minutes and get all the image types that you need.
SyntheticMR offers a product called SyMRI that does just that: “On the MR scanner a special sequence is introduced that results in the measurement of the absolute MR parameters.Based on these parameters T1- and T2-weighted image can be generated without rescanning. As each tissue has its own unique combination of parameters, the anatomy can automatically be segmented into various tissue components”.
The quantification scan is a multi-slice, multi-echo, multi-saturation delay sequence that is able to retrieve T1 and T2 relaxation, proton density and the B1 field in one scan.
Whether this is the future of MRI, only time and clinical studies will tell, but it looks promising.


Microsoft Research has come up with a virtual tool for physiotherapy. The idea behind it is to motivate people recovering from injuries to do their exercises. AnatOnMe is a device that projects images of the bones muscles and ligaments inside the body onto the patient’s own skin. This is a novel implementation of augmented reality as the augmented world is projected on the patient. An image of the underlying bone structure, muscle tissue, tendons, or nerves is projected onto the skin, giving patients a better understanding of the injury, and of what they need to do to help the healing process.
The device consists of two parts: the first one contains a projector, an ordinary digital camera, and an infrared camera. The second contains a laser pointer and the control buttons. The system is not meant to be very accurate, and the image of the internal injury is not precisely map onto the patient’s exterior, the therapist simply points the projector and lines it up by eye. The images displayed are not actually taken from scans of the patients but come from stock graphical images used to show one of six different types of injury. However, it works pretty well to educate patients and help them better understand their injuries.

Autofluorescence imaging is becoming more and more important in the assessment of the severity of a variety of diseases. Recently, researchers from Vojvodina, Clinic for Pulmonary Oncology, Serbia, have shown the benefits of autofluorescence imaging videobronchoscopy (AFI). AFI is one of the new systems of autofluorescence bronchoscopy designed for thorough examination of bronchial mucosa. Indications for AFI go from evaluation of early-stage lung cancer and detection of precancerous lesions, to evaluation of tumor extension or follow-up after surgical resection. This technique provides clear differentiation between normal and pathologically altered mucosa. However, AFI has a low specificity in the detection of premalignant lesions, early-stage lung cancer. According to the researchers, this disadvantage could be overcome by addition of backscattered light analysis, ultraviolet spectra, fluorescence-reflectance or dual digital systems. In addition, quantitative image analysis is also required to reduce intra and inter-observer variability in the assessment of the disease. For more information, Expert Rev Med Devices. 2011 Mar;8(2):167-72.

Nanotechnology and cancer

January 26, 2011

In the last few years, nanotechnology has gained in popularity. Particularly, in cancer research, where it holds great promise for the development of targeted, localized delivery of anticancer drugs, in which only cancer cells are affected. Nowadays, anticancer drugs are distributed through the whole body, damaging healthy cells as well as cancerous ones.

Researchers at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have carried out a study where they demonstrate that mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs), tiny particles with thousands of pores, can store and deliver chemotherapeutic drugs in vivo and effectively suppress tumors in mice.

The study also showed that MSNs circulate in the bloodstream for extended periods of time and accumulate almost exclusively in tumors after administration and that the nanoparticles are excreted from the body after they have delivered their chemotherapeutic drugs.According to the researchers, the tumor accumulation could be further improved by attaching a targeting moiety to MSNs.

There is still a long way to go before this technology can be used in humans, with safety tests and many more studies to follow in different animal models, but so far, the results are very positive.

MR keeps bringing exciting images of the human body. Who would have expected to have a woman in labor having an MR scan? Well, last November, physicians at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin followed the birth of a child on an open MR system. The movements of the baby in the birth canal to the exit of the head, were monitored through MR imaging.
This is part of a study that tries to show some light into the fact that 15% of pregnant women need a C-section because of the baby not moving properly into the birth canal.

MR/PET combined scanner

November 21, 2010

PET/CT is a reality nowadays. PET provides functional information, while CT gives high resolution morphological information. The combination of both in one image perfectly aligned is highly important for a more accurate disease assessment. However, CT gives poor detail of soft-tissue and it involves a considerable amount of radiation, which means that MR/PET would be of high relevance. Having said that, it seemed to be nearly impossible to integrate MR and PET technologies: the conventional PET detectors, which use photomultiplier tubes, could not be used in the strong magnetic field generated by an MR system. Integration was further limited by the lack of space inside the MR device. Those difficulties seem to be part of the past, according to Siemens.
Biograph mMR Whole-Body Integrated MR-PET System is currently undergoing clinical use testing (not commercially available yet – no 510k yet).

It is well known that doing exercise regularly can prevent cardiovascular diseases, but now researchers from the University of Pittsburg have shown that it can prevent Alzheimer’s. A study including 299 patients have shown that those who walked at least 6 miles/week regularly over a period of 9 years had a much lower Alzheimer’s incidence. According to the authors: “In short, walking greater distances was associated with greater [gray-matter] volume in specific regions, and greater [gray-matter] volume was associated with a lower risk for experiencing cognitive impairment in later years.” This research has been published at Neurology, Vol. 75:15, pp. 1415-1422.