The Magnetics Group's program in biomagnetic imaging standards and microsystems develops calibration standards and new types of magnetic contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) gives detailed medical images of the body's internal tissues and organs without the use of harmful radiation. MRI is based on magnetic vibrations of the protons in water. The Biomagnetics Program seeks to improve MRI through the invention of multifunctional magnetic contrast agents and the development of measurements and standards to make MRI quantitative and traceable, instead of qualitative and instrument dependent.
Figure 1. Scanning electron micrograph of engineered magnets, 3 micrometers in diameter, for enhanced MRI contrast.
Customized microscopic magnets could add color and sensitivity to MRI. In collaboration with the NIH, EEEL has shown how such micromagnets could act as “smart tags” to identify particular cells, tissues, or physiological conditions. Each micromagnet consists of two round, vertically stacked magnetic disks, a few micrometers in diameter, separated by a gap. Customized magnetic fields can be created by adjusting materials, gap, or disk thickness or diameter. The open design allows the diffusion of water through the micromagnet, producing a signal that may be thousands of times stronger than that produced by a similarly sized, but stationary, volume of water. The diffusion effectively increases local MRI sensitivity, which could lead to faster imaging, images that are richer in information, or reduced dose requirements for contrast agents. The micromagnets can be made using conventional microfabrication techniques and are compatible with standard MRI hardware.
In collaboration with a committee of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM), EEEL is developing a standard "phantom" for the calibration of MRI machines. Currently, MRI scanners drift over time and different machines give different images. Quantitative, traceable MRI will provide accurate and consistent images, validate disease mechanisms and therapeutic outcomes, and facilitate the transition to computer aided diagnostics. The pharmaceutical industry will use quantitative MRI to objectively test the efficacy of new drugs.
Figure 2. Model of phantom under
development by EEEL and the ISMRM
Committee on Standards for Quantitative
MRI. It will include traceable dimensions
and magnetic contrast agents.
Lead Organizational Unit:pml