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Peering into the Body
Magnetic resonance technology is being
refined and applied in new ways.
by JANE M. SANDERS
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING has been used in medicine for decades to study human gross anatomy and diagnose or monitor disease. More recently, physicians have been using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy to study physiological function.
photo by Gary Meek
Professor Xiaoping Hu is using magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which provides chemical information, to develop a new way of imaging prostate cancer. (300-dpi JPEG version - 396k)
“The key advantage of magnetic resonance technology is that it’s non-invasive and physicians can use it to follow patients over time,” explains Xiaoping Hu, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Imaging and professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.
Magnetic resonance (MR) technology can be employed in the research, diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases. Specifically, MRI technology allows doctors to follow the evolution of cancerous lesions and tumors to see if treatment is working and how the tumor is affecting the surrounding anatomy. Also, MRIs provide researchers and clinicians with physiological function information, such as information about nutrient-carrying blood flow to a tumor over time.
But MR technology still poses many problems in the manipulation of data. So Hu is addressing the technical issues, as well as developing new applications for the technology.
photo by Gary Meek
This magnetic resonance image of a prostate was obtained with an external probe that is much less uncomfortable to the patient than an endorectal probe. The external probe also yields a higher quality image. (300-dpi JPEG version - 80k)I
In collaboration with Department of Biomedical Engineering colleagues Shuming Nie, Gang Bao and Ravi Bellomkonda, Hu is helping develop target-specific MR contrast agents to allow more specific and sensitive diagnostic imaging.
And in another project funded by the Coulter Foundation, Hu is using MRI and MR spectroscopy, which provides chemical information, to develop a new way of imaging prostate cancer. For now, patients must undergo an extremely uncomfortable endorectal probe procedure to obtain prostate images, which are often of poor quality. Hu and his colleagues at Emory Radiology are using an external probe to image the prostate with minimal patient discomfort and substantially improved image quality.
“Our preliminary findings using MRI show the external probe works well, but the spectroscopy study is inconclusive and needs further study to increase its sensitivity,” Hu says.
He and his collaborators in the Emory University School of Medicine are seeking NIH funding to continue this work. They need more patient volunteers who agree to undergo both the endorectal probe, as well as the two MR procedures. And they hope to purchase better hardware to enhance the research.
Meanwhile, Hu is setting up a new MR instrument for animal imaging. Hu expects the new instrument to be available for use by Georgia Tech and Emory researchers by the end of this year.
Hu also uses MR technology to study normal brain function and neuropsychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and drug abuse. This research is funded by the National Institutes of Health.For more information, contact Xiaoping Hu at 404-712-2615 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last updated: July 7, 2004