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PRESS RELEASE

GE Research, USU Begin Mild-TBI MRI Study

GE Research Begins Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) MRI Study with Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
  • GE’s experimental MAGNUS gradient coil installed in a GE 3.0 Tesla clinical MRI scanner delivers an unprecedented combination of slew rate and gradient strength for brain imaging, operating in the 500 – 700 Tesla/meter/second (T/m/s) and 200-300 milliTesla/meter (mT/m) range vs. up to 200 T/m/s and 50-80 mT/m in conventional MRI scanners.
  • GE’s high-performance brain imaging platform is designed to  establish objective measures for diagnosing mild cases of mild TBI
  • Project funded through a 5-year, $5.6 M U.S. Department of Defense (Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program) grant

NISKAYUNA, NY and WASHINGTON D.C. – October 20, 2020 – GE Research, together with the Uniformed Services University (USU), the U.S. government’s health sciences teaching and research university, has kicked-off a new study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense that could lead to new imaging biomarkers for characterization of Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI).  The study will involve scanning military personnel suffering from acute and chronic TBI on GE’s experimental (research) high-performance Microstructure Anatomy Gradient for Neuroimaging with Ultrafast Scanning (MAGNUS) MRI system. 

According to Brainline, an online authority on brain injury and TBI, some 2.8 million people in the United States are diagnosed with TBI annually.  These injuries occur mostly from falls, but also can result from being struck by an object, impacts related to contact sports or being involved in a motor vehicle accident. While most of these cases are determined to be mild, many more cases go undiagnosed without any firm objective measures in place to evaluate patients.

 

 

Today, current clinical MRI systems cannot readily image the brain’s microstructures with sufficient detail to that may be necessary to diagnose subtle changes associated with mild TBI. Specifically, the experimental MRI scanner’s gradient system enables spatial localization of MR signals and characterization of the brain microstructure. The gradient system’s strength and speed, also known as slew rate,  are critical performance parameters required for generating extremely high-resolution MR images of the brain quickly that may yield richer diagnostic information. 

GE Research’s new experimental MAGNUS gradient system, combined with a conventional GE 3.0T MRI scanner,  was installed at a major military medical treatment facility with the Uniformed Services University (USU) of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, in March 2020,  with the goal of increasing the specificity and sensitivity of MR imaging to detect mild TBI, but also potentially, other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, neuropsychiatric disorders, and mild cognitive impairment.

MR brain image

Pictured is a high resolution image captured with GE’s Experimental (Research) Advanced Brain Microstructure MRI Scanner, visualizing white matter that is important for understanding various brain illnesses, including Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), Alzheimer’s Disease, neuro-psychiatric diseases and cognitive impairment. This image provides a reformatted coronal plane view of a T1-weighted 0.8-mm isotropic acquisition. Image courtesy of Dr. Vincent Ho, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

The study is being led by Dr. Vincent Ho, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences at USU, and Thomas Foo, Chief Scientist, Biology and Applied Physics, at GE Research. Foo says the partnership with USU could lead to key advancements in diagnosing mild cases of TBI, stating, “Today, it is difficult to definitively diagnose and monitor patients with mild TBI as we don’t have good objective and sensitive measures in place to assess patients,” Foo said.  “What’s needed is a high-performance brain imaging platform that can assess microstructure changes in the brain with much greater specificity and sensitivity to see and detect mild head trauma. With GE’s MAGNUS gradient system, we’re hoping to achieve the image quality required to enable the first established protocols for diagnosing mild TBI cases.”

The incidence of TBI is particularly high with military personnel, given their readiness physical training requirements, exposure to combat and deployments to austere locations. Through the study, GE Research’s MR team, along with USU and other DoD researchers, will scan military personnel with acute and chronic mild TBI using the research MAGNUS gradient  system which promise to provide objective imaging markers of their medical condition. The team will then compare this new data with existing data from patients suffering from age-matched healthy controls to more clearly stratify the mild TBI cases.

GE is a world leader in MRI system technology and has developed some of the world’s most advanced research platforms in brain imaging. 

“The mild TBI patient study with GE’s research MAGNUS gradient system provides an unprecedented opportunity to visualize this condition in the human brain in ways previously not possible in standard clinical MRI scanners,” Foo concluded. “The hope is we can use this technology to gain new insights into the mechanisms of TBI and the path to recovery that lead to much earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments of the nearly 3 million people who suffer from TBI each year.”

About GE Research

GE Research is GE’s innovation powerhouse where research meets reality. We are a world-class team of scientific, engineering and marketing minds working at the intersection of physics and markets, physical and digital technologies, and across a broad set of industries to deliver world-changing innovations and capabilities for our customers. To learn more, visit our website at https://www.ge.com/research/.

 

“The mild TBI patient study with GE’s research MAGNUS gradient system provides an unprecedented opportunity to visualize this condition in the human brain in ways previously not possible in standard clinical MRI scanners. The hope is we can use this technology to gain new insights into the mechanisms of TBI and the path to recovery that lead to much earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments of the nearly 3 million people who suffer from TBI each year.” - Thomas Foo, Chief Scientist, MR Physics, at GE Research
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