Published On: Tue, Aug 6th, 2019

Israeli Scientists create MRI technique to predict diseases

Hebrew University of Jerusalem team advanced findings can help doctors determine the earlier onset of diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s
Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered a technique to transform the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) from a diagnostic camera into a powerful device that can identify molecular changes in the brain tissue.
MRI is a big scanner that gives physicians a picture of the organs inside the body: bones, nerves, soft tissues including of the white and gray matter, ventricles, and other elements of the brain.
The advanced findings can help doctors determine the earlier onset of diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s in order to begin treatment as early as possible.
In a paper published in Nature Communications,  Dr. Aviv Mezer and his team at Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, successfully
“Our MRI model could allow doctors to compare brain scans taken over time from the same patient, and to differentiate between healthy and diseased brain tissue, without resorting to invasive or dangerous procedures, such as brain tissue biopsies,” explained Dr. Mezer.

Aging creates changes in molecules — lipids, proteins, and sugars. The external signs are easy to identify. Gray hair, a stooped spine, occasional memory loss. The hidden aging of the brain sometimes discovered when it is too late to help.

Both body’s neurodegenerative diseases and external aging signs create biological “footprints” in the brain, changing the lipid and protein content of its tissue.

MRI scans are already sensitive to these molecular changes but don’t show changes in the composition of the human brain, changes that could potentially differentiate normal aging. Dr. Mezer’s team have developed a mathematical model that is able to extract this information from the MRI image. It becomes a tool to determine if a person is just getting older or developing a disease.

Dr. Mezer believes that the new MRI technique will provide us new information about the brain, and also provide an understanding of how the brains ages. “This is something we hope to do in the future. We are working on it,” he said.

“When we scanned young and old patients’ brains, we saw that different brain areas age differently,” he added. “We saw major changes in the molecular makeup of the gray matter in younger versus older subjects.”

Using the new technique doctors are able to compare brain scans taken over time from the same patient, and to differentiate between healthy and diseased brain tissue, “without resorting to invasive or dangerous procedures, such as brain tissue biopsies that are currently done in cases of brain tumor,” explained Mezer.

While the research was focused on brain imaging, the scientists believe it can be also applied to the MRI of other body parts.

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