We already have all sorts of maps – of highways and hiking trails, of floor plans and tunnels, View posteven of skeletal systems and the evolution of our ancestors. Now, for the first time, we will have a blood volume map of the human brain – a detailed layout of the complicated network of vessels that make up our circulatory system for arguably the most important organ in our body.

A new MRI brain imaging technique developed by Northeastern researcher Srinivas Sridhar will use magnetic nanoparticles to create the first atlas of blood volume in the human brain. The results will be used to better identify and address neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and drug addiction. A groundbreaking clinical trial is already underway at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

The technique, called QUTE-CE MRI, or Quantitative Ultra-short TE Contrast-Enhanced MRI, was developed three years ago by University Distinguished Professor of Physics, Bioengineering, and Chemical Engineering Srinivas Sridhar and his students, Codi Gharagouzloo, Ju Qiao, and Liam Timms.

The technique utilizes iron oxide nanoparticles which attract to the blood flowing through the body. The nanoparticles appear bright under the MRI, creating extremely detailed images of every small and large vessel in the bloodstream. The use of iron oxide is a newer, safer technique for MRI imaging that is increasing in popularity.

Sridhar wanted this technique to have an immediate impact on people, so he created a company called Theranano LLC, which translates the Northeastern discovery into technology that can be used in the clinic. Through a National Institute of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH/NIDA) funded grant, Theranano, in joint partnership with Northeastern, will be testing the QUTE-CE MRI technique at MGH to create the first clinical brain images of cardiovascular networks.

“It’s really exciting, and it’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I write lots of papers, but I want something that helps and directly impacts people. That’s really why this is so exciting, because we made the discovery at Northeastern, and already within just a couple of years, we’re in the clinic,” Sridhar said.

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