Royal Philips Electronics has obtained the first real-time images of blood flow and heart movement from its Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) technology.
The device works by detecting the magnetic properties of injected iron-oxide nanoparticles to produce images that could aid in the diagnosis of illnesses such as heart disease, strokes and cancer.
Prof Valentin Fuster, director of the Mount Sinai Heart Center, New York, said: ‘A novel non-invasive cardiac imaging technology is required to further unravel and characterise the disease processes associated with atherosclerosis, in particular those associated with vulnerable plaque formation, which is a major risk factor for strokes and heart attacks.’
‘Through its combined speed, resolution and sensitivity, Magnetic Particle Imaging technology has great potential for this application, and the latest in-vivo imaging results represent a major breakthrough.’
The technology uses a combination of high spatial resolution and short image acquisition times (typically around 1/50 of a second) to capture concentration changes of the nanoparticles as they move along the blood stream. Because the human body contains no naturally occurring magnetic materials, there is no background signal, making the technology suitable for whole-body use.
Henk van Houten, senior vice-president of Philips Research and head of the healthcare research programme, said: ‘We are the first to demonstrate that Magnetic Particle Imaging can be used to produce real-time in-vivo images that accurately capture cardiovascular activity.
‘By adding important functional information to the anatomical data obtained from existing modalities such as CT and MR, Philips’ MPI technology has the potential to significantly help in the diagnosis and treatment planning of major diseases such as atherosclerosis and congenital heart defects.’
While trials have been successful, the research team is currently working on overcoming technical challenges such as scaling up the system in relation to the magnetic generation required for human applications, as well as measuring and processing the weak signals emitted by the nanoparticles.
Researchers hope that the device will ultimately allow them to perform a range of cardiovascular measurements using a single scan. Possible applications could include the analysis of coronary blood supply, myocardial perfusion, and the heart’s ejection fraction, wall motion and flow speeds.