MRIs give us a picture of what is inside our bodies —organs, bones, nerves, and soft tissue. But what if MRIs could show us the molecular structure of our organs, and help doctors more quickly determine the cause of disease and begin treatment?
Dr. Aviv Mezer and his team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI)’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences successfully transformed an MRI from a diagnostic camera that takes into a device that can record changes in the biological construction of brain tissue. This is especially important for doctors aiming to understand whether a patient is simply getting older or developing a neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Molecular Imaging of Organs.
According to Dr. Mezer, instead of images, the quantitative MRI model provides molecular information about the brain tissue which is being studied. This could allow the doctors to compare brain scans taken over time of the same patient. Also, to differentiate between healthy and diseased brain tissues, without resorting to invasive or dangerous procedures like brain tissue biopsies.
The external signs of aging like gray hair, weak spine and occasional memory loss are visible to people. However, it is difficult and important to determine whether a patient’s brain is aging or developing a disease. Both normal aging and neurodegenerative diseases create biological footprints in the brain and change the lipid and protein content of the brain tissue.
Current MRI scans generate only pictures of the human brain. This new technique provides biological insights into the brain tissue and the ability to see what is going on on a molecular level and to direct the course of treatment accordingly. When blood is drawn for a test, it shows the exact number of white blood cells in the body and whether that number is higher than normal due to illness.
Looking forward, researchers believe that the new MRI technique will provide a crucial understanding of how the brain ages. When the researchers scanned young and old patients’ brains, they found that different brain areas age differently. For instance, some white-matter areas showed a decrease in brain tissue volume, whereas, in the gray-matter, the tissue value remained constant. However, major changes in the molecular construction of the gray matter were detected in younger subjects as compared to the older ones.
The new technology can be a breakthrough in the medical imaging industry. Not only the MRI will be able to distinguish molecular signs of aging from the early signs of the disease, but patients will more likely receive treatment due to current diagnosis in the earlier stages. The treatment would speed up and will help in maintaining an improved quality of life.