MRI technology could speed diagnosis for Alzheimer's

Researchers in the U.K. are working on a technology that could improve the sensitivity of magnetic resonance scanners and allow for a quicker diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The technology is called SABRE (Signal Amplification by Reversible Exchange). A Centre for Hyperpolarization in Magnetic Resonance is scheduled to open next year at the University of York, where scientists have been working on the technology for several years now (see this article in Technology Review).

According to an announcement from the University of York, hyperpolarization involves transferring magnetism from molecular hydrogen (parahydrogen) to other molecules to make them more visible in MRI scans.

"SABRE has the potential to revolutionize clinical MRI and related MR methods by providing a huge improvement in the sensitivity of scanners," Gary Green, a professor at York Neuroimaging Center, and one of the leaders of the SABRE project, said in a statement. "This will ultimately produce a step change in the use and type of information available to scientists and clinicians through MRI, allowing the diagnosis, treatment and clinical monitoring of diverse neurodegenerative diseases."

Simon Duckett, a professor at the department of chemistry at York who also is involved with SABRE, added that while MRI has changed modern healthcare, its value is limited by its low sensitivity.

"As well as tailoring treatments more accurately to the needs of individual patients, our hope is that in the future doctors will be able to accurately make diagnoses that currently take days, weeks and sometimes months, in just minutes," Duckett said in a statement.

The SABRE program just received a £3.6 million strategic award (roughly $5.8 million) from the U.K.'s health charity Wellcome Trust to fund further research. According to the announcement, the focus of the work is to develop the chemical basis of hyperpolarization to make it more suitable for medical applications.

For more:
- see the release from York University
- read the article in Technology Review