Researchers develop unique 7T MR head coil for better imaging

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | April 19, 2018
Alzheimers/Neurology MRI
7T angiography in late life depression
patients with the "Tic-Tac-Toe" RF
coil system and without the
use of invasive contrast agents
Bioengineers at the University of Pittsburgh created a new RF coil for clinical 7T MR systems that overcomes many of the technical difficulties associated with this technology.

“There are physics issues that create obstacles for 7T imaging, such as decreased RF homogeneity which causes image inhomogeneities and potentially higher localized tissue heating,” Tamer Ibrahim, professor at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, told HCB News. “This negatively impacts the detection of disease.”

Because of the attributes of the new Tic-Tac-Toe RF coil’s electromagnetic design, it addresses those issues and significantly improves the overall quality of 7T MR imaging. In addition, its non-subject-specific design approach allows for consistent performance across different patients.
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Ibrahim and his team designed the coil through many hours of computer simulations using full-wave electromagnetic software developed in his lab. The final product is a collection of transmit antennas and receive antennas that are tightly arranged to fit the human head.

“The RF coil is called the Tic-Tac-Toe RF coil system since it’s composed of antennas that form the shape of multiple Tic-Tac-Toes,” said Ibrahim.

He recently became principal investigator/project director of a $3.1 million project that will use the Tic-Tac-Toe coil to develop a new 7T RF coil for better understanding the neurological issues, treatment and management of depression. More specifically, he will investigate small vessel disease in older adults with depression.

White matter hyperintensities (WMH) in the brain are a telltale symptom of small vessel disease. Conventional MR imaging doesn’t provide enough detail to determine the specific mechanisms that contribute to depression, but 7T MR imaging does.

Aside from depression, Ibrahim and his team also plan to study other neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, sickle cell disease and major depressive disorder.

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