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MPI imaging technology aims at human application
November 2009
by Lloyd Dunlap  |  Email the author


EINDHOVEN, The Netherlands—Stating that the development and commercialization of preclinical MPI scanners are important steps towards establishing the technology for humans, Philips and Bruker BioSpin have signed a memorandum of understanding for the development of Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) scanners for the preclinical market.  
The partnership will unite Philips' strength in medical imaging and Bruker BioSpin's leadership in analytical magnetic resonance instruments and preclinical Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Under the terms of the agreement, Bruker BioSpin will develop and manufacture the preclinical MPI scanner at its facilities in Ettlingen, Germany. Both parties intend to co-market the resulting solution. The two companies believe that the addition of MPI as a complementary preclinical imaging technique has great potential to help researchers gain new insights into disease processes at the organ, cellular and molecular level.  
The availability of MPI scanners for preclinical research studies is a prerequisite for establishing the value of this promising new technology for patient care, states Philips' director of communications Steve Klink.  
"For the development and commercialization of preclinical MPI scanners, we intend to team up with Bruker BioSpin, a company with a set of competencies that is complementary to ours," Klink says. "The highly sensitive visualization of functional characteristics in vivo at high temporal resolution of MPI bears great potential for small animal imaging, especially when combined with high spatial resolution morphological MRI where Bruker BioSpin is recognized as a leader."  
To develop a new scanner technology for use on humans is not only a technical problem, but also requires intensive studies for possible applications of such technology and development of new contrast agents, which can only be done with a preclinical system, adds Bruker BioSpin's communications director Dr. Thorsten Thiel.
Klink explains how MPI works: The iron-oxide nanoparticles are responsive to external magnetic fields. As a result, even a weak oscillating magnetic field generated by the MPI scanner will cause them to magnetize. While doing so, they emit a small but detectable electromagnetic signal that can be picked up by a receiving antenna. It is this signal that is measured by the scanner. On its own, however, this signal would only detect the presence of magnetic nanoparticles in the imaging area, not their exact location within that area.  
To do this, the imaging area is saturated with a strong static magnetic field that forces the nanoparticles to magnetize in a fixed direction, thus rendering these particles silent to MPI. Then a single point within the imaging area is created where the static magnetic field strength falls to zero (a so-called "Field Free Point"). At this point, the nanoparticles remain free to oscillate in response to the applied oscillating magnetic field. The amplitude of the signal picked up by the receiving antenna is then a measure of the nanoparticle concentration only at the Field Free Point and nowhere else. To create the entire image, all that needs to be done is to move the Field Free Point until every point in the imaging area has been scanned.  
The technology has been used in a preclinical study to generate real-time images of arterial blood flow and volumetric heart motion. In this study, the first in vivo, 3D real-time MPI scans were presented revealing details of a beating mouse heart using a clinically approved concentration of a commercially available MRI contrast agent, achieving a spatial resolution sufficient to resolve all the heart chambers. The planned preclinical product will be specified to accommodate larger animals.
"We are convinced that MPI is an exciting technology that will allow scientists to explore an extensive range of new imaging capabilities and applications in preclinical research," Klink says. "Depending on the exact contrast agents that will be used, theoretically, both molecular and anatomical information can be obtained with an MPI/MRI scanner."
"We are very pleased about this collaboration with Philips on this exciting technology. Magnetic particle imaging is expected to allow scientists to explore an extensive range of new imaging capabilities and applications in preclinical research," adds Wulf-Ingo Jung, managing director of Bruker BioSpin MRI GmbH.

Code: E110912



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