Technology 3 min read

New MRI technique Can Capture Molecular Changes in the Brain

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique that provides pictures of the anatomy and the physiological process of the body. In other words, it lets us see what’s going on in our organs, nerves, bones and soft tissue.

Based on a recently published paper in Nature Communications, the researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem may have taken the imaging technique a step further. Rather than displaying the body’s inside, the new method now shows the molecular makeup of our body parts.

That means health professionals can quickly spot the onset of diseases and begin treatment. For example, it becomes easier to tell if a patient is merely getting older or developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson‘s and Alzheimer‘s.

Shir Filo, a Ph.D. student, who worked on the study noted:

“MRI scans provide images of the brain but don’t show changes in the composition of the human brain, changes that could potentially differentiate normal aging from the beginnings of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.”

A New MRI Technique To Provide a Molecular Perspective

We’re already familiar with the external signs of aging such as gray hair, a stooped spine, and an occasional memory loss. But, knowing whether a patient’s brain is aging or developing a disease requires an examination at a molecular level.

This is especially true because both healthy aging and neurodegenerative diseases leave a biological footprint in the brain. They both change the lipids and protein content of brain tissues.

As such, it becomes necessary to create an imaging technique that can capture these biological footprints. That’s what the Hebrew University of Jerusalem team developed.

Unlike the current MRI scans, which only shows pictures of the human brain, the new technique provides a biological readout of brain tissue. With access to such advanced imaging method, health professionals can see what’s going on a molecular level and provide treatment accordingly.

Speaking about the new imaging technique, leader of the project, Dr. Aviv Mezer said:

“Instead of images, our quantitative MRI model provides molecular information about the brain tissue we’re studying. This could allow doctors to compare brain scans taken over time from the same patient, and to differentiate between healthy and diseased brain tissue, without resorting to invasive or dangerous procedures, such as brain tissue biopsies.”

With time, Mezer believes that the new MRI technique will provide an insight into how our brains age. According to the researcher, a brain scan using the latest imaging method already revealed that different areas of the brain age differently.

“For example, in some white-matter areas, there is a decrease in brain tissue volume, whereas, in the gray-matter, tissue volume remains constant. However, we saw significant changes in the molecular makeup of the gray matter in younger versus older subjects,” Mezer concluded.

Read More: How a Rejected Diamond can Improve MRI Technology

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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