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Last Update: 2017-11-17 Source: Research Headlines
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Novel contrast agents to enhance medical imaging
EU-funded researchers are working on novel, more effective contrast agents - the substances that make the contrast between, for example, muscle and bone, in MRI scans. This new level of detail will improve diagnostics and help ensure people receive the right treatment.
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As Europe’s ageing population grows, so does the need for improved diagnostic and therapeutic treatments. Today, molecular imaging (MI) is indispensable to diagnosis, understanding disease and developing treatments. However, according to the EU-funded CONQUER project, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) currently only plays a minor role in contrast media despite its potential to improve molecular imaging techniques because of the time and expense involved.
MRI scans are much better at looking at soft tissues such as cartilage, nerves and organs than CT scans or x-rays. Moreover, MRIs can complement these other examinations with additional information. MRI scans are particularly useful for identifying tumours, bleeding, blood vessel diseases or infection.
CONQUER will explore new contrast agents the substances used in MI that enhance the contrast between structures or fluids within the body to paint more accurate pictures of potential injury, infection or disease in patients. It will focus on one particular contrast mechanism called ‘quadrupole cross relaxation’ that is known to be extremely versatile and is able to enhance the contrast in molecular imaging. By making the image clearer, MRI scans will be able to provide more precise and detailed information about patients to their doctors.
If successful, CONQUER’s novel contrast media will have smart properties, such as the ability to switch the contrast on and off from afar, using a magnetic field. The techniques could also be used to develop specific and smart contrast media for a number of different diagnostic applications.
Europe is already the world leader in the development of contrast agents, but CONQUER’s potential to create imaging solutions could have a significant impact on modern diagnosis and treatment. The project results aim to provide a theoretical basis for further research, toxological references, guidelines and imaging instrumentation that will lay the foundations for developing new and innovative technology in the field.