Scientists at Imperial College London have developed a “mini-MRI” scanner prototype that they believe will change the way clinicians diagnose knee injuries. The research, recently published in the journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, describes accurate visualization of the knee joint anatomical structures in animal trials. The prototype MRI scanner, which is significantly smaller in size than traditional machines, can potentially be used to diagnose sports-related injuries and get athletes back to play faster.
The Imperial team decreased the size of their MRI machine by utilizing the “magic angle.” Researcher Dr. Karyn Chappell explains: “the brightness of these tissues such as tendons and ligaments in MRI images strongly depends on the angle between the collagen fibres and the magnetic field of the scanner. If this angle is 55 degrees the image can be very bright, but for other angles it is usually very dark.” Unlike conventional MRI scanners, the novel mini-MRI prototype rapidly changes the orientation of the magnetic field, allowing for high-quality pictures with lower field size.
Dr. Chappell again explains: “Specifically, we can combine images obtained at different magnet angles and not only increase the brightness, but also see how the collagen fibres are arranged. This enables us to establish the pattern of collagen fibres in the knee structures, which is crucial information ahead of treatments such as repairing a torn meniscus.”
To follow this proof of concept study, the researchers are planning a human trial within a year.
Study in journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine: Detection of maturity and ligament injury using magic angle directional imaging