NIH deploys PET/MR

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center has begun imaging patients on a whole-body simultaneous PET and MRI device (Siemens Healthcare, Biograph mMR) as a new weapon in its arsenal to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among military service members and civilians.

The purchase of the Biograph mMR was made possible through the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM), a Department of Defense-funded collaboration between the NIH and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. The CNRM carries out research in TBI and PTSD that would benefit servicemen and women at Walter Reed National Navy Medical Center, near the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md.

Researchers at the NIH Clinical Center said they also will use the Biograph mMR in studies of  patients with other brain disorders, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

"The MRI points us to abnormalities in the body, and the PET tells us the metabolic activity of that abnormality, be it a damaged part of the brain or a tumor," said David Bluemke, MD, PhD, director of NIH Clinical Center Radiology and Imaging Sciences.

The CNRM works to develop new approaches to diagnosis and intervene for the prevention of long-term consequences resulting from TBI. Under the CNRM diagnostics and imaging program, researchers characterize each patient's injury to optimize diagnosis and inform the plan of treatment from among the available options.

"A major challenge in the diagnosis and treatment of both military and civilian brain injury patients is the lack of sufficient tools to evaluate the type and extent of injury in a given patient," said Regina C. Armstrong, PhD, director of the CNRM. "We expect the NIH investigators have the expertise to take maximal advantage of this technology by designing novel neuroimaging protocols and molecular probes that can significantly improve how TBI research is performed."