MRI with Ultrashort Echo Time (UTE) Techniques Can Improve Myelin Imaging in the Brain: New Research from UCSF Radiology

Myelin is a fatty substance that surrounds nerve cells and plays a critical role in the nervous system, facilitating long-range connections. Not surprisingly, the loss or damage of myelin is implicated in a wide variety of neurological diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), leukodystrophies, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), and Alzheimer’s disease. We have demonstrated a new technique for imaging myelin in the brain using MRI and a specialized technique called Ultrashort Echo Time (UTE). Current MRI methods detect signals only from hydrogen atoms in water molecules, while this new technique measures signals from hydrogen atoms within the myelin tissue itself. This means it has potential to provide a direct measure of myelin density and integrity.

In our Magnetic Resonance in Medicine paper, selected as an August 2018 Editor's Pick, we describe the technical problems we had to solve, including coming up with new ways to acquire the data and create the images. With our new techniques we were able to measure the properties of the myelin signal for the first time in humans. These methods and these measurements will be used to further improve myelin imaging as well as apply this technique to patients with myelin abnormalities that may benefit from this approach.

I put together an audio slideshow to accompany our paper. You can watch and listen below or on YouTube.

Read more from the Larson Group.      

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