lab notes>

PROJECT SUMMARY

We are developing inexpensive MRI technology to diagnose brain injury and reduce the cost of health care.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a powerful, non-invasive technique that reveals the internal structure and function of the human body. Despite considerable improvements in imaging quality and speed, the underlying technology remains remarkably unchanged compared to the first generation scanners that emerged on the market 30 years ago. MRI scanners are built around massive superconducting magnets and the extreme cost of these devices (~$3M) limits the number of scanners on site and requires hospitals to carefully prioritize patients. These large and heavy scanners are also strictly confined to the MRI suite within a hospital which limits MRI scanners from being used in new mobile applications such as surgical intervention, triage and on location in primary care offices.

Our laboratory is working to revolutionize the cost-effectiveness of health care by developing low-cost MRI systems to complement traditional MRI scanners.  This work rethinks conventional MRI scanner construction and is creating transformative and transportable MRI scanners that operate at much lower magnetic field. This new kind of inexpensive MRI can be useful for physicians for acute triage in the Neuro ICU as well as in places where doctors don't have access to MRI scanners or when the time to transport a patient to a MRI scanner may be too long. The potential ubiquity of these inexpensive instruments would lead to entirely new ways of informing and practicing medicine.

 We have recently demonstrated heretofore unattainable speed and resolution with this  very low magnetic field MRI technology in our laboratory,  and are ready to move to the next step: improving the speed of brain imaging in the prototype scanner.

PROJECT GOALS

Our goal is to increase the speed at which we can acquire brain images in our low-cost prototype 6.5 mT MRI scanner. We will replace a critcal piece of scanner hardware, the gradient set, with an improved one designed in our laboratory. The upgraded scanner will acquire brain images 5–10x faster.  

We will validate this technology by comparing brain images obtained from our scanner with those acquired on a conventional 3T MRI scanner. What we learn from this research will enable transformational and revolutionary applications of low-cost MRI. We expect the design and construction of the scanner upgrade to take 3 months, and we will spend an additional 3 months testing and validating the imaging results in both healthy volunteer subjects and in the neurological patient population.

IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH

Very low magnetic field MRI scanners operating at the level of performance we expect to demonstrate will be able to complement traditional MRI by relieving hospital congestion and shortening triage delays. Mobile standalone scanners could be deployed during military conflicts, natural disasters, or during sport events and enable the acquisition of immediate after-trauma knowledge, typically in the case of traumatic brain injuries. These low-cost scanners can democratize MRI, moving it away from demanding siting requirements and colossal costs, and opening up a wide range of unprecedented new applications.

BUDGET

1. Project Resources - $4,000

Scanner Time: We will scan human subjects both at low-magnetic field on the laboratory prototype, and validate the results against those obtained on a clinical 3 tesla scanner.




2. Research Supplies - $20,000

Scanner Upgrade: Custom fabricated high strength (10 mT/m) planar gradient set for low magnetic field MRI prototype




3. Salary Support - $22,100

Salary support for postdoctoral fellow




4. Indirect Costs - $3,915

Costs to the Martinos Center to support infrastructure, lab space and building management




5. Other - $

There are no other costs associated with this project.