The 10 biggest MR stories of 2020

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | December 23, 2020
From the November 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Are SPIONs the future of low-field MR imaging?
Low-field MR systems are entering areas like neurological ICUs to assess critically ill patients who cannot be as easily transported to MR rooms, but the images they produce are weaker than conventional systems.

In June, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Sydney in Australia investigated the potential of SPIONs for such scans. Short for superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, SPIONs are 3,000 times more magnetic than conventional MR contrast agents, which could make them ideal for low-field scanners.

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“There do not exist contrast agents that perform well enough at low magnetic fields,” physicist Matthew Rosen, director of the Low-field MR and Hyperpolarized Media Laboratory at the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging told HCB News. “Adding contrast to low magnetic field scanners allows the full gamut of the type of scans that people do with high-field. It's a very standard workflow of an oncologist who is trying to study the progress of some brain cancer. They would say, ‘let’s order these imaging sequences, plus contrast.’ And so the plus contrast part is something you can now do at low field.”

Physicists David Waddington, the lead author of the study, and Zdenka Kuncic, both from the University of Sydney, tested their approach in a trial involving healthy lab rats that were scanned with Rosen’s homemade ultra-low-field MR scanner. Each subject was given an initial scan without the contrast agent and another with it. Images from both scans were compared, with kidneys, liver and other organs in the contrast-enhanced scan glowing more brightly than in the non-contrast one.

“I’ve been reaching out to clinical collaborators here,” said Rosen. “There is a lot of enthusiasm for that. People I have spoken to, mostly in neurology, are very interested in this. Probably something like this will happen sooner rather than later. The people who are doing low field MR, such as folks at Yale and people on Long Island at Northwell Health, are all very excited about boosting the obtainable imaging information from this new imaging modality.”

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