Fast Field-Cycling (FFC) is a well-established Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) technique that exploits varying magnetic fields to quantify molecular motion over a wide range of time scales, providing rich structural information from nanometres to micrometres, non-invasively. Previous work demonstrated great potential for FFC-NMR biomarkers in medical applications; our research group has now ported this technology to medical imaging by designing a whole-body FFC Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FFC-MRI) scanner capable of performing accurate measurements non-invasively over the entire body, using signals from water and fat protons. This is a unique tool to explore new biomarkers related to disease-induced tissue remodelling. Our approach required making radical changes in the design, construction and control of MRI hardware so that the magnetic field is switched within 12.5 ms to reach any field strength from 50 μT to 0.2 T, providing clinically useful images within minutes. Pilot studies demonstrated endogenous field-dependant contrast in biological tissues in good agreement with reference data from other imaging modalities, confirming that our system can perform multiscale structural imaging of biological tissues, from nanometres to micrometres. It is now possible to confirm ex vivo results obtained from previous clinical studies, offering applications in diagnosis, staging and monitoring treatment for cancer, stroke, osteoarthritis and oedema.
ASJC Scopus subject areas