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Seeing through your brain: high-end biomedical imaging modality for translational research in brain mapping

  • Date: 2020-08-03
  • Update: 2020-08-05
  • Source: 國家衛生研究院
  • Views: 232

Seeing through your brain: high-end biomedical imaging modality for translational research in brain mapping

─NHRI has taken the lead in developing a dedicated multi-scale brain MRI system for facilitating the neuroimaging on large and small animals─

August 3, 2020

A series of findings by researchers with the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI), in collaboration with other scientists in Taiwan and abroad, has shown promise for advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system development.

During the past few years, Dr. Feng-Huei Lin, Dr. Hsu Chang, and Dr. Li-Wei Kuo have led the biomedical imaging research team at NHRI’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Nanomedicine and collaborated with Dr. Wen-Yih Isaac Tseng at the National Taiwan University College of Medicine to establish the first domestically developed multi-scale brain connectome 3T MRI system platform. The development of custom-built high-performance MRI system has been published in international scientific journals.

Following human genome research, brain connectome research has been considered as one of the most prominent scientific aims in this century. Brain connectome refers to the connecting structures between neurons; these facilitate neuronal communication in support of cognitive functions. Through investigating the brain connectome, researchers seek not only to facilitate understanding of how the human brain processes cognitive functions but also to identify the structural and functional abnormalities related to neurological diseases and psychological disorders. Exploration of brain connectome is potentially beneficial to early diagnosis and therapeutic treatment of neurological diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and psychological disorders.

Statistically, one person out of ten suffers from a psychiatric disorder. In recent years, the prevalence of brain-related neurological and psychiatric diseases has escalated globally due to rapidly changing socio-economic patterns, chronic mental stress in modern society, and an increase in the aged population. In Taiwan, with the increase of those affected by dementia, society here has called more for treatment and care of brain disorders. Effective diagnosis and evaluation of treatment effects have become critical issues. Therefore, to facilitate early diagnosis and precision medicine, the specific goal of medical imaging technology development has been intensely focused on how to establish an accurate, non-invasive imaging diagnostic system and biomarkers indicative of a variety of neurological and psychiatric diseases.

In the multi-scale MRI system developed by NHRI researchers, the magnetic gradient of the human-size coil is approximately three times stronger than commercial clinical MRI systems. The new system is capable of acquiring high-resolution brain connectome images and potentially helpful to future clinical applications. The research team also integrated an animal-size high-strength gradient coil; it has approximately ten times the strength of commercial clinical MRI systems and can provide excellent imaging resolution, from several tens to hundreds of micrometers. This multi-scale MRI system is extremely beneficial to imaging research on pre-clinical animal models. Since the imaging service on the multi-scale MRI platform has started, the research team has researched applications contracted by universities, hospitals, research laboratories, and companies.

Because this MRI system was developed and integrated independently in Taiwan, the key technology and expandability can be easily controlled by the NHRI team. This research was achieved with funding support from NHRI, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and other government science and technology grants. Implications of the findings extend beyond developing high-end MRI techniques. Other modalities could also be integrated on this system, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and focused ultrasound (FUS) systems.

Development of the multi-scale brain connectome 3T MRI system platform has strengthened the capability of designing high-end biomedical imaging instrumentation in Taiwan and also provided a new tool in brain connectome research, according to Dr. Kuo. The researchers expect this innovative project will benefit high-end biomedical imaging technology and further strengthen Taiwan’s industrial competitiveness.

The most recent related research achievements were published in PLoS One, the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and NMR in Biomedicine. For the full texts of the publications, see:

  1. Ezequiel Farrher, Farida Grinberg, Li-Wei Kuo, Kuan-Hung Cho, Richard Buschbeck, Ming-Jye Chen, Hsuan-Han Chiang, Chang-Hoon Choi, and N. Jon Shah. “Dedicated diffusion phantoms for the investigation of free water elimination and mapping: insights into the influence of T2 relaxation properties,” NMR in Biomedicine, 2019, doi: 10.1002/nbm.4210. (In press)

  2. Chia-Wen Chiang, Shih-Yen Lin, Kuan-Hung Cho, Kou-Jen Wu, Yun Wang, and Li-Wei Kuo. “Effects of signal averaging, gradient encoding scheme, and spatial resolution on diffusion kurtosis imaging: an empirical study using 7T MRI,” Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 50(5):1593-1603, November 2019, doi: 10.1002/jmri.26755.

  3. Kuan-Hung Cho, Sheng-Min Huang, Chang-Hoon Choi, Ming-Jye Chen, Hsuan-Han Chiang, Richard P. Buschbeck, Ezequiel Farrher, N. Jon Shah, Ruslan Garipov, Ching-Ping Chang, Hsu Chang, and Li-Wei Kuo. “Development, integration and use of an ultra-high-strength gradient system on a human-size 3 T magnet for small animal MRI,” PLoS One, 14(6):e0217916, 3 June 2019, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217916.

For further information, please contact Ms. Wen-Ling Tseng at +886-37-206-166 ext. 37136.