Fifty years after the American chemist Pal Laterbur detailing the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists marked this historic medical anniversary with the sharpest scans ever of a mouse brain.
Nearly 40 decades in the making, researchers from the Center for In Vivo Microscopy at Duke University, along with scientists from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh and Indiana University, produced MRI images 64 million times sharper than current images. technological offers.
This MRI was able to capture images so detailed that each voxel – the 3D version of a pixel – measured just 5 microns, or five thousandths of a millimetre. This means that if current MRI technology is advanced enough to detect a brain tumour, for example, this type of clear image can go further and show much more detailed organization and connectivity.
MRI was able to capture incredible images of circuitry data throughout the mouse brain, as seen in the video below.
The researchers believe this level of detailed imaging will provide insight into how the brain changes with age, diet and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s something that’s really empowering,” said lead author G. Allan Johnson, professor of radiology, physics and biomedical engineering at Duke. “We can start looking at neurodegenerative diseases in an entirely different way.”
The culmination of nearly 40 years of work at the Center for In Vivo Microscopy, this MRI resolution has only been made possible with impressive technology. The team used a powerful 9.4 Tesla magnet (clinical MRIs typically have a 1.5 to 3 Tesla magnet), a set of gradient coils 100 times stronger than in standard scanners, and a supercomputer equivalent to 800 laptops, all working to capture the unique mouse brain.
Additionally, once the MRI visuals were completed, the researchers had the brain tissue scanned by light sheet microscopy. This allowed scientists to label specific groups of cells, allowing them to track the development of neurodegenerative diseases over time.
Using sets of mice of varying ages and genetic makeups, scientists were able to see how the animal’s brain-wide connectivity changed over time and how certain regions, such as the memory-linked SUBICULUM , changed much more than others. The images were also able to capture how Alzheimer’s disease breaks down neural networks.
The research paves the way for further technological developments to capture the human brain in such detail, leading to a better understanding of how tissues change with age and what interventions might be helpful in preventing degeneration.
“Research supported by the National Institute of Aging has found that modest dietary and drug interventions can allow animals to live 25% longer,” Johnson said. “So the question is, is their brain still intact during this extended lifespan? Could they still do crosswords? Will they be able to do Sudoku even if they live 25% longer? And now we have the ability to review it. And in doing so, we can translate that directly into the human condition.
The research was published in the journal PNAS.
Source: duke university