Tissue microstructure properties have been shown to change in the presence of disease, but these properties are difficult to measure quickly and accurately in vivo. The goal of this project is to develop and test a new technique, known as MRF-X, to probe in vivo tissue microstructure by using standard Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners to collect data in a new way. After optimizing the MRF-X method, the properties of both skeletal muscle and brain tissue will be measured, and differences between healthy and abnormal tissue quantified. This technique will enable researchers to study how diseases progress as well as allow physicians to examine tissue microstructure to better diagnose disease in their patients.
The goal of this five-year project is to develop, validate, and deploy novel techniques for in vivo tissue microstructure characterization. These tissue microstructure measurements will be performed by collecting Magnetic Resonance (MR) imaging data that have been encoded to contain information about multiple tissue properties simultaneously in a manner similar to the recently introduced MR Fingerprinting technique. By optimizing the MR pulse sequence to be sensitive to variations between tissue compartments, it will be possible to collect information about microstructure which cannot currently be measured directly in vivo, including water exchange rates between tissue compartments and intracellular/extracellular volume fractions. The specific objectives of the proposal are to: 1) Develop a technique (MRF-X) for rapid and robust in vivo quantification of volume fractions and exchange properties, 2) Characterize and validate water exchange rates and volume fraction in healthy skeletal muscle and brain tissue, 3) Explore the use of water exchange as a biomarker for disease in the brain by comparing properties of normal brain tissue and multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions, and 4) Develop formal course work and laboratory experiences linking signal processing and medical imaging for undergraduate and graduate students, introduce K-12 students to biomedical imaging and engineering, and encourage women and underrepresented minorities to pursue science and engineering. The proposed research plan involves the development of new imaging techniques with the goal of addressing fundamental questions about the nature of interactions between tissue compartments and how they are modified under pathological conditions. Using MRF-X, it will be possible to explore tissue structure and function in healthy living tissue, and also to use these new biomarkers to aid in the understanding and diagnosis of disease. The development of a robust and rapid technique for in vivo tissue microstructure characterization will ensure that the technique is immediately translatable for clinical use, potentially leading to earlier and more accurate diagnosis of disease. Moreover, it will be possible to probe the underlying mechanisms of various diseases, including but not limited to Alzheimer?s disease and MS, using MRF-X. The education and mentorship of K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students will be integrated into the research to engage students, especially women and underrepresented minorities, in biomedical imaging.
This award was made by the Biomedical Engineering program of CBET was co-funded by the Mathematical Biology program of the Division of Mathematical Sciences.