Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI) opened the first clinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) laboratories in the western United States. HMRI has been one of the premier centers for MR research over the last 3 decades, providing critical insight into cardiovascular diseases, chemical and metabolic changes of neurodegenerative diseases, and mechanisms and growth factors of cancer. Over the years, the Advanced Imaging and Spectroscopy Center has been dedicated to providing training for physicians, scientists and technologists from all over the world in advanced magnetic resonance spectroscopy techniques. In addition, HMRI co-sponsors postdoctoral fellowships with the California Institute of Technology through the Boswell Fellowship in a collaborative effort to develop technologies that will improve medical care and treatment.
On July 6th, 2015, the Imaging Center installed its new 3Tesla MR scanner. This stronger, state-of-the-art magnet allows for better resolution as well as faster imaging times. This is a broadband system, so not only will HMRI be able to do everything it currently does using its 1.5T system (which only consists of proton (1H) imaging and spectroscopy), but also will be able to image other nuclei like carbon-13 (13C) to detect brain metabolism in different neurological diseases, and phosphorus-31 (31P) to study energy of the heart muscle. In the future, HMRI foresees tapping into sodium imaging for migraine studies as well as fluorine for lung imaging.
The Imaging Program is central to HMRI’s strategic plan moving forward. The new scanner will not only advance MR research, it will allow the Cardiovascular, Neurosciences, Metabolism, Tissue Engineering, Liver, and Immunology programs to use imaging and spectroscopy as a tool to further their research efforts. Along with Immunology and Metabolism, the Advanced Imaging and Spectroscopy Center will function collaboratively and will develop internal collaborations and support of other research programs at HMRI.
HMRI’s Imaging Center provides an important clinical service — offering advanced quantitative imaging techniques developed by prior imaging research pioneers. These tests are crucial to answering clinical questions that cannot be answered by standard anatomic imaging. In addition to requiring specialized technical skills to acquire and analyze, it is important to have extensive testing to calibrate the range of values for each particular MRI scanner. Due to HMRI’s longstanding history using these techniques, the Imaging Center has extensive databases of values in healthy individuals and those with disease acquired on its MRI machines to help interpret tests with optimal precision.
Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy: Metabolic abnormalities precede onset of Alzheimer’s disease and can aid in diagnosis. HMRI’s technique was pioneered by Dr. Brian Ross.
Cerebrospinal Fluid Flow Studies: HMRI primarily applies this to identify Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, which is important as it is one of the few causes of dementia that can be treated. There is an increased flow of the cerebrospinal fluid HMRI can identify using a technique developed by Dr. William Bradley.