New MRI technology could lead to faster disease diagnoses

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The use of a new MRI-type of technology called magnetic resonance fingerprinting could lead to the use of full-body MRI scans that could quickly and easily detect heart disease, certain cancers and other diseases before they become difficult to treat.

According to an article in the latest edition of the journal Nature, magnetic resonance fingerprinting (MRF) works on the idea that different types of body tissue, as well as different diseases, have unique fingerprints that could help quickly diagnose specific problems.

Mark Griswold, M.D., a radiology professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, explained the difference between traditional MRI and MRF by comparing it to the process of listening to two musical choirs.

"In the traditional MRI, everyone is singing the same song and you can tell who is singing louder, who is off-pitch, who is singing softer, but that's about it," Griswold said in an announcement. In this case, these different musical characteristics are represented by dark, light or bright spots in the scan that are subject to a radiologist's interpretation. A bright area might show swelling, but may not indicate the severity or cause of the condition.

With MRF, the fingerprint of each tissue and each disease within the body represents a completely different song being sung simultaneously, Griswold said, and researchers were able to use quantitative measurements to determine one tissue from another. The hope is that as the technology progresses, it will be able to determine whether these tissues are healthy or diseased, and if the latter, why and how badly.

Consequently, the authors believe, the technology has the potential of being incorporated into annual physical examinations, with the idea that a patient could undergo a full body scan in minutes that will be able to generate a large amount of diagnostic data that can be easily interpreted.

To learn more:
- see the article in Nature
- read the announcement

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