The Future MR Research Facility


The MR Research Center aims to maintain state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.  This requires an investment in both the hardware and software that compose our center's mainstay, and also an investment in recruiting and maintaining exceptional personnel.  To that end, we have been actively pursuing development in the following areas to advance the research at our University...

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) - This is of interest mainly for evaluation of brain morphology changes associated with neurological and psychiatric disorders. We have been working on novel schemes for rotating the diffusion tensor and multishot approaches for high resolution Diffusion Tensor Imaging.  We are also working on tools for fiber tracking. These tools are currently available through the Neuroimaging Informatics Tools and Resources Clearinghouse.

T1rho Imaging - The primary application of this technique is to assess and quantify pathologic cartilage matrix changes that are not detectable with standard morphological MRI.  Initial work has focused on the knee joint in an ACL injury population to determine the suitability of T1rho as an imaging biomarker for early detection of osteoarthritis. Broader application to the ankle and hip joints are also being explored. We are also evaluating the utilization of this method to study pH changes that may result from stress including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.

Arterial Spin Labeling – Using the Siemens ASL WIP for VB13, we have started to evaluate this technique for functional brain activation studies. To date we have successfully generated reproducible measurements within the occipital cortex and are starting to evaluate higher order cognitive activation studies.

MR Spectroscopy – We have been working on tools for partial volume correction of brain MR spectroscopy studies and have been able to obtain the PEPSI sequence from Stefan Posse. Various pilot studies are currently being conducted using 1H-MRS, and at least one research group has voiced interest in evaluating treatment trials in Huntington’s disease using 1H-MRS.

Magnetic Source Imaging – Dr. Jinhu Xiong is currently working on assessing the validity and reliability of magnetic source imaging. This is a potentially powerful tool to understand brain function at a high temporal and spatial resolution.

Plans for the Future

Presently, the MR physicists associated with our Research Center are nearly 100% committed to projects within the center. In order to continue our growth to include projects such as the development of pulse sequences, T1rho or Amide proton transfer for the evaluation of pH changes, additional staff in the form of a post doctoral fellow or research engineer will be needed.

An area of weakness within the MR Research Center is in spectroscopy.  Investigators interested in applying spectroscopic imaging techniques to their studies could be greatly aided by a faculty member who is a spectroscopist by training. Presently, we are working with a Neuroradiology fellow, Andres Cappazino, who has a background in MR spectroscopy and is collaborating with the University of New Mexico, to enhance our ability to perform 1H-MRS studies. We also have the ability at both 1.5T and 3T to acquire data from nuclei other than 1H.

The University of Iowa Colleges of Medicine and Engineering recently formed the collaborative imaging initiative, Iowa Institute of Biomedical Imaging (IIBI). This institute is being lead by Milan Sonka from the College of Engineering and Geoffrey McLennan from the College of Medicine. We are working closely with this group to advertise our Center and services to other groups throughout the University. The College of Medicine is currently in the design and development stages for a new research building on the medical campus known as the Iowa Institute of Biomedical Discovery. The building will house the IIBI core team and will provide space for three additional scanning bays for state-of-the-art imaging equipment. We are envisioning one of these bays supporting a 7T scanner. Work will need to be done to support the acquisition of such a system.

The current Trio system could be enhanced with a 32 channel RF subsystem, 32 channel head array coil, and extremity array coil. These items are under consideration for future upgrades of the system. To support the upgrade of the scanner we are considering grant avenues such as the NIH shared equipment grant mechanism as well as private foundations.

Finally, we are working to continue to develop additional interest in using MR imaging to assess disease pathology, develop imaging biomarkers, and evaluate treatment response. In this effort, we will participate in an Iowa Obesity Conference on April 8 where the use of imaging to study obesity will be discussed. This conference is being jointly sponsored by the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science & Iowa Institute for Biological Imaging. The research center is also working with the Department of Neurosurgery to expand their use of fMRI and diffusion tensor imaging in the study of temporal lobe epilepsy. We anticipate a significant increase in the utilization by this department within the next two years. Finally, we are working with Neurognostics to discuss potential research projects that would be funded by this corporate sponsor to assess the utility of the fMRI Workflow software for clinical applications.

Iowa Institute for Biomedical Discovery

Construction has begun on the Iowa Institute of Biomedical Discovery (IIBD) facility. The new building will house 8 floors of dedicated research space, 198,000 gross ft2 of space, a 15,000 ft2 imaging facility and 15,000 - 30,000 ft2 dedicated to high-risk, high-gain product-orientated research.

Aerial View   &   Interior Research Space

Looking Northeast  &   Southeast

Looking Southwest  &   Northwest

View from Bowen Science Building Looking North  &   Interior View

IIBI Construction Webcam