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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J01379X/1
Title: Field-Cycling Add-On for Clinical MRI Scanners
Principal Investigator: Lurie, Professor DJ
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Oxford Instruments Plc TESLA ENGINEERING LTD
Department: School of Medical Sciences
Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Scheme: Follow on Fund
Starts: 04 January 2012 Ends: 03 January 2013 Value (£): 199,618
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Oct 2011 Follow-on Fund Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive method for producing highly detailed images of the human body. It is used every day in hospitals around the world, and is particularly good at highlighting diseased tissue (e.g. cancer). It works by placing the patient into a very strong magnetic field. This causes the magnetic hydrogen atoms in water molecules to line up along the magnetic field. When a burst of weak radiowaves is applied, some of the energy is absorbed and this causes the hydrogen atoms to flip round in the magnetic field. After a time delay (called the "T1 relaxation time") the atoms revert to their original orientations and re-emit the radiowaves in the form of a "signal", which is picked up by the scanner. The process is repeated hundreds of times over the course of a few minutes, and the signals are then analysed by computer to produce an image (picture) of where the signals came from in the body. The delay time (T1) between receiving and re-emitting radiowaves is very sensitive to the type of tissue (e.g. the T1 of kidney is different to the T1 of leg muscle) and also changes if the tissue is diseased (brain tumour has a longer T1 than normal brain). Therefore, the T1 relaxation time is used to introduce "contrast" into MR images, which radiologists use to diagnose disease.

Through experiments done outside the body on small tissue samples, biomedical scientists have discovered that the T1 relaxation time also depends strongly on the strength of the magnetic field used (thus, the T1 of liver is longer when measured in a 1.5 Tesla magnet than it is at 1.0 Tesla). Furthermore, the way in which T1 changes with magnetic field is different in different tissues, and can also change in disease. The manner in which T1 changes as a function of magnetic field is called "T1 dispersion" and a graph of T1 versus magnetic field strength is called a T1 dispersion curve.

T1 dispersion could be of great use in diagnosing disease, but hospital MRI scanners cannot measure T1 dispersion, because each scanner operates at a single magnetic field strength (e.g. 1.5 Tesla or 3.0 Tesla) and cannot be changed. In a previous research project at the University of Aberdeen, we have shown that it is possible to design and build special MRI scanners in which the magnetic field applied to the patient can be changed very rapidly, while the scan is in progress. This method is called "Fast Field-Cycling MRI" (FFC-MRI). We have produced methods of measuring T1 dispersion curves, linked to MR images, and our research has also shown the potential for improving diagnosis, in diseases as diverse as osteoarthritis and deep-vein thrombosis. The potential also exists to use FFC-MRI to detect diseases which involve protein malformation and malfunction, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and many more.

At the moment, only two human-sized FFC-MRI scanners exist, both of them in our research laboratories. Hospitals cannot buy FFC-MRI scanners, because the companies that sell scanners do not yet build them for sale. However, there is a potential way in which some types of hospital MRI scanner (called "open" scanners) could be retro-fitted with additional hardware and software to allow them to perform FFC-MRI scans, and therefore enhance diagnosis of their patients. The upgrade "kit" includes additional magnet hardware that can be moved in or out, depending on whether FFC-MRI or standard MRI is being used, together with control and analysis software.

The purpose of this project is to create preliminary designs for add-on hardware and software for FFC-MRI, and to develop the technology so that it can be demonstrated to companies which manufacture MRI scanners. The hope is that the technology would then be manufactured by the medical imaging industry and would then be purchased by hospitals and research institutes, making FFC-MRI much more widely available.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL: http://www.ffc-mri.org/
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.abdn.ac.uk