Radiation Free, Fast and Precise – UKE Scientists Test New Imaging Modality

30 October 2012
A consortium of scientists managed by Professor Gerhard Adam, medical director of the Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology Department and Clinic at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) received a Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) scanner and funding amounting to four million € from the German Research Foundation (DFG). MPI is characterized by its ability to produce fast and radiation free high quality three-dimensional pictures. One of the two scanners funded by the DFG will be located at the UKE starting autumn 2013.

For the new imaging technology extremely small iron oxide particles are injected which can then be traced through their magnetization. Compared to Magnetic Resonance (MR) Imaging MPI requires fewer nanoparticles. Furthermore MPI measures the spatial distribution of the magnetic particles whereas MR Imaging measures the reaction of the tissue to the contrast agent. “Thus we get precise anatomical information with significantly less interfering background signals compared to MR Imaging”, explains Adam. He also leads a project in the Collaborative Research Centre 841 (CRC 841) “Liver inflammation: infection, immune regulation and consequences” in which liver diseases are investigated with MR Tomographic Imaging. Besides Adam four other principal investigators of the CRC 841 as well as numerous scientists of the UKE, the Heinrich Pette Institute, the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine and the Institute for Physical Chemistry of the University of Hamburg participate in the MPI project.

Firstly, the scientists want to identify in mouse models clinical applications and scientific research questions suitable for MPI. A possible application is the imaging of vessels to improve the detection of vascular restrictions. Furthermore, the researchers want to test imaging of the perfusion of whole organs. Thereby it could be possible to distinguish liver cirrhosis from a healthy liver or to detect tumors earlier and more precisely. “We hope that MPI will improve the diagnosis of cardiac and liver diseases. This would result in a less strenuous treatment for patients”, Adam says. If the new imaging modality proofs to be very sensitive, it could also be applied on a molecular level. Single cells or antibodies could then be depicted using MAPI.