Carle and University research new brain imaging technology

A joint research project between Carle Foundation Hospital and the University can help physicians and scientists learn more about the brain and its diseases.

According to a press release by Carle Hospital, the team is using a new imaging technology called Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE) to monitor and inspect brain-tissue stiffness.

The technology, which was developed by Mayo Clinic, resembles the common imaging technique, MRI.

“The MRE is done in an MRI,” said William Olivero, neurosurgeon at Carle. “The MRE adds a device that causes a very slight vibration of the head, and using the data from that vibration, you can then determine the stiffness of the different parts of the brain. Different diseases affect the stiffness of the brain.”

Graham Huesmann, a neurologist who founded Carle Hospital’s Epilepsy Center in 2014, said in a press release that MRE could help treat epilepsy at an early stage.

“We are hoping that we can identify a patient’s epilepsy long before there is a change on a traditional scan,” Huesmann said in the press release. “The earlier it is identified, the better the treatment can be, and we can avoid a lot of the long-term problems with untreated or under-treated epilepsy.”

Curtis Johnson, assistant director of magnetic resonance operations at the Beckman Institute’s Biomedical Imaging Center, said in a press release that knowledge about the brain and its conditions can allow doctors to improve their surgical procedures. 

“Knowing how stiff brain tumors are before surgery can improve outcomes and ensure the surgery is as noninvasive and short as possible,” Johnson said in a press release. “Brain tumors take less time to remove if doctors know it’s a softer tissue before they start surgery.”

MRE has been in the research phase for about nine years now, and is currently being used to study various brain diseases, including epilepsy, stroke, and Alzheimer’s.

Olivero said the joint project is more advanced than other MRE research in the field. 

“There’s just a lot smarter engineers here at the University of Illinois,” Olivero said. “We have the best of the best here, so we were able to accomplish more stuff with the MRE elastography that wouldn’t be able to be done in other places.”

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