Fifty years on from American chemist Pal Laterbur detailing the first magnetic resonance imaging, scientists have marked this historic medical anniversary with the sharpest-ever scans of a mouse brain. Nearly 40 decades in the making, researchers from Duke University’s Center for In Vivo Microscopy, along with scientists from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh and Indiana University, have produced MRI visuals 64 million times sharper than current technology offers.
What this means is that while current MRI technology is advanced enough to spot a brain tumor, for example, this sort of clear picture can take things a step further and display organization and far more detailed connectivity.
The researchers believe that this level of detailed imaging will enable greater understanding of how brains change with age, diet and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The team used a powerful 9.4-Tesla magnet, a set of gradient coils 100 times stronger than in standard scans, and a super-computer equivalent to 800 laptops, all working to capture the single mouse brain.
What’s more, after the MRI visuals were complete, the researchers had the brain tissue scanned by light sheet microscopy.
The research paves the way for further technological development to capture the human brain in such detail, which would provide a greater understanding of how tissue changes with age and what interventions could be helpful to stave off degeneration.
“So, the question is, is their brain still intact during this extended lifespan? Could they still do crossword puzzles? Are they going to be able to do Sudoku even though they’re living 25% longer? And we have the capacity now to look at it. And as we do so, we can translate that directly into the human condition.”