Researchers Produce Sharpest-ever MRI Scans of Mouse Brain

Researchers Produce Sharpest-ever MRI Scans of Mouse Brain
Researchers Produce Sharpest-ever MRI Scans of Mouse Brain / Technologynetworks

The sharpest-ever scans of a mouse brain have been taken by scientists, marking a significant milestone in medical history, nearly fifty years on from American chemist Paul Lauterbur detailing the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers from Duke University’s Center for In Vivo Microscopy, along with scientists from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, and Indiana University, have produced MRI visuals that are 64 million times sharper than current technology offers.

The new MRI resolution was only made possible with some impressive technology. The team used a powerful 9.4-Tesla magnet (clinical MRIs generally have a 1.5-to-3-Tesla magnet), a set of gradient coils 100 times stronger than in standard scans, and a supercomputer equivalent to 800 laptops, all working to capture the single mouse brain.

Each voxel in the image measured just 5 microns, the 3D version of a pixel. Although existing MRI technology has the capability to identify a brain tumor, the newly achieved level of clarity in imaging can provide an additional advantage by demonstrating the brain’s structure and more intricate interconnections in detail. The MRI was capable of capturing astonishing images of circuitry information throughout the brain of the mouse.

According to the researchers, the enhanced level of detailed imaging can facilitate a better comprehension of the brain’s transformation concerning age, dietary factors, and neurodegenerative ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease. The images were also able to capture how Alzheimer’s disease breaks down neural networks.

Lead author G. Allan Johnson, professor of radiology, physics, and biomedical engineering at Duke, said that “it is something that is truly enabling. We can start looking at neurodegenerative diseases in an entirely different way.”

Using sets of mice of varying ages and genetic makeups, the scientists were able to see how the animal’s brain-wide connectivity changed over time and how certain regions, like the memory-related subiculum, changed significantly more than other areas. Following the MRI visualization, the researchers employed light sheet microscopy to scan the brain tissue, which allowed them to tag particular cell clusters and monitor the progression of neurodegenerative diseases over time.

The new level of detailed imaging will provide a greater understanding of how tissue changes with age and what interventions could be helpful to stave off degeneration. The study sets the stage for more technological advancements in capturing the human brain with similar precision, which could lead to a better comprehension of how tissue undergoes changes as people age and which interventions could be beneficial in preventing degeneration.

“Research supported by the National Institute of Aging uncovered that modest dietary and drug interventions can lead to animals living 25% longer,” Johnson said. “So, the question is, is their brain still intact during this extended lifespan? Could they still do crossword puzzles? Are they going to be able to do Sudoku even though they’re living 25% longer? And we have the capacity now to look at it. And as we do so, we can translate that directly into the human condition.”

This new technology is not only important for understanding the brain and neurodegenerative diseases, but also for detecting and treating cancer. Since MRI is a non-invasive imaging technique that does not use radiation, it is frequently used for cancer diagnosis and monitoring the effectiveness of cancer treatments. The new and improved MRI scans will provide doctors with a more accurate and detailed view of tumors, which could lead to better treatment options and outcomes for patients.

The development of this technology is significant, as it could lead to new breakthroughs in medical research and treatment options for a variety of diseases. With the ability to capture such detailed images of the brain, scientists can now better understand how it functions and how it changes over time, providing insights that could lead to new treatments and therapies.­­­­­­