Researchers working to make 15-minute MRI scans a reality

Researchers from the University of Arizona (UA) are working to develop a 15-minute MRI scan for patients with Parkinson’s disease, children and other patient populations who may have issues remaining still for the normal 40-60 minutes.

The team is drawing funding from a $2.1 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to develop the new technologies, which they say will also produce higher image quality. It’s the first phase of what they say will be a five-year endeavor.

“We want to address the boundaries of existing MRI protocol,” Nan-kuei Chen, PhD, principal investigator and associate professor in the UA Department of Biomedical Engineering, said in a UA news release. “With this research, MRI scans will be faster and higher quality and will produce richer information, so we can be better informed on the stage of disease or will even be able to see if there's any brain signal abnormality before the disease is diagnosed. With earlier detection, we might be able to delay the disease's progress.”

Multiplexed sensitivity encoded MRI, or MUSE, and diffusion tensor imaging technology developed by Chen are the team’s starting points for this new project. The process does result in unwanted noise being introduced to the images, according to the UA release, but a “denoising” method has already been adapted that can correct such issues.

“By refining existing technologies to better inform the diagnosis of people suffering from neurologic disorders, Dr. Chen and his colleagues are a great example of the potential that lies at the nexus of technology and biology,” UA President Robert C. Robbins said in the same statement. “To improve the quality of an MRI, while also cutting the time it takes to do the imaging, would be a major step forward for physicians and patients.”