GE, Mayo nab NIH grant to study brain MRI

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The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have awarded GE Global Research and Mayo Clinic a $5.7 million grant to jointly conduct research to understand design and application issues involved in the use of a dedicated MRI brain scanner to image neurological and psychiatric disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain disorder (TBI), depression and autism.

A high-field scanner could offer a more specialized imaging approach and a greater range of functionality for neurological imaging compared with the current one-size-fits-all concept of whole-body MR imaging, GE said. The goal of the program is ultimately to understand and address the technical issues involved in dedicated MR imaging of the brain.

“The development of a head-only MRI system could address 25 to 30 percent of all MR imaging procedures today,” said Jim Davis, general manager of GE Healthcare’s MRI business. “Research in this area aims to bring benefits of lower total costs, better image quality, greater patient comfort, and makes this a very attractive opportunity for collaboration.”

Steve Williams, professor of imaging sciences and head of the department of neuroimaging at the institute of psychiatry, King’s College London, believes the development of a dedicated MRI brain scanner has tremendous potential. “A smaller, lighter, dedicated head-only MRI system will have a huge positive impact on the field of psychiatry. During the past decade, brain imaging research has dramatically improved our understanding of mental illness. The creation of dedicated head-only MRI system will take our clinical implementation to the next level.”

Beyond removing major siting barriers, researchers will be incorporating new image analysis tools, operating systems and interfaces. For example, one-touch features are being developed that will simplify the programming of image settings from dozens of inputs to a single control.

GE researchers will develop and complete the prototype system over the next three years, which will then be tested in human clinical trials at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for the remaining two years of the project. During that time, the system will be assessed and compared with standard MRI scanners.