MR Fingerprinting Offers Novel Approach to Disease Imaging

March 28, 2013

MR fingerprinting could provide a non-invasive method of identifying diseases through a novel approach to data acquisition, post-processing and visualization.

A new method of magnetic resonance imaging could provide a non-invasive method of identifying diseases such as specific cancers, multiple sclerosis or heart disease through a novel approach to data acquisition, post-processing and visualization, according to a paper recently published in Nature.

The new technique, called magnetic resonance fingerprinting (MRF), has the potential to be much faster and easier than traditional MRI, and could eventually make an MRI scan part of regular check ups, according to the researchers.

“MRF provides a new mechanism to quantitatively detect and analyze complex changes that can represent physical alterations of a substance or early indicators of disease,” Mark Griswold, a radiology professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and UH Case Medical Center, said in an interview. “Because of its basis in pattern recognition, MRF inherently suppresses measurement errors and, thus, can improve accuracy and efficiency compared to previous approaches.”

Using current MRI technology, a technologist has to optimize up to 150 different parameters before each scan, ultimately using a different pulse sequence for each scan.

“One of the fundamental ideas with fingerprinting is that we take those 150 parameters and vary a large fraction of them so that we get a whole bunch of what seems like randomized garbage out the back end,” Griswold said. “But if we use pattern recognition algorithms, we can piece those out and get all of our information simultaneously so that the technologist no longer has to optimize those parameters.”

This means that there would now be one optimized pulse sequence instead of 10.

“What we have is a quantitative MR method that is fundamentally more sensitive and more specific than previous methods,” Griswold said. “The vast majority of the important controls and sequence design could happen once at the factory, and the end user would just be presented with a big ‘scan’ button.”

Ultimately, Griswold and colleagues hope to generate a series of MR-specific maps that would identify every tissue in the human body and a host of diseases based solely on the MR “fingerprint.”

“This would allow us to generate multi-level anatomical images, almost like the old cellophane anatomy books, where each tissue was printed on a different sheet. You could just peel back the different levels,” Griswold said. “This is an end goal, but I firmly believe that this is possible through this framework.”

If this occurs, he said, the fingerprints could be used for fast and efficient screening for a wide variety of diseases.