MRI Technology Detects Diseases In Seconds Rather Than Hours

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland are developing technology to dramatically improve the speed of MRI scans.

A typical MRI body scan is a difficult process which involves lying motionless in a tight space often for hours at a time. Imagine if that time could be shortened not only to minutes, but mere seconds. On your next visit to the doctors office, complex scanning procedures could be accomplished quickly and painlessly.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland say that after a decade of work they’ve developed a new MRI (magnetic resonance imagining) technique that can scan for those diseases very quickly. In just 12 seconds, for instance, it may be possible to differentiate white from gray matter in cerebrospinal fluid in the brain; in a matter of minutes, a full-body scan would provide far more data, making diagnostics considerably easier and less expensive than today’s scans.

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Each body, tissue, and disease has a unique fingerprint that can be used to diagnose problems before they become untreatable. A magnetic resonance imager uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to create images of the body’s tissues and structures. The researchers at Case Western Reserve University report that their method, which they dub magnetic resonance fingerprinting (MRF), can obtain much more information with each measurement than a traditional MRI.

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Mark Griswold, a radiology professor behind the new technology says:

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. With an MRF, we hope that with one step we can tell the severity and exactly what’s happening in that area.

The fingerprint of each tissue, each disease and each material inside the body is, by Griswold’s analogy, a different song. In an MRF, each member of the choir sings a different song simultaneously, which allows doctors to pinpoint specific diseases simply by listening for its ‘song.’

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The new MRF technology has the potential to make an MRI scan standard procedure in annual check-ups or doctors visits. A full-body scan lasting just minutes would provide far more information and easy interpretation of the data, making diagnostics far less expensive compared to today’s scans, and giving for greater access to preventative knowledge for both doctors and patients.

Case Western Reserve University

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