Advanced MR-PET scanning in Edinburgh
March 2017: Hi-tech brain scans using an MRI-PET scanner will give researchers the clearest picture yet of the damage caused by strokes.
A advanced MR-PET scanner - the first of its kind in Scotland - has been installed in Edinburgh as part of the Medical Research Council Dementias Platform UK Imaging Network.
By combining magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) into a single machine, the new instrument allows researchers to view structures of the brain in action inside a person in real time. MRI scans provide structural details of organs and tissues inside the body, but little functional information. PET scans – which follow a radioactive tracer in the body – can show processes such as brain activity or energy metabolism. They can also reveal abnormal deposits of proteins in the brain that can cause damage but are not visible on MRI.
The new instrument is part of a £14 million investment in the University of Edinburgh’s research imaging facilities. With a total of six scanners dedicated to research, the Edinburgh Imaging facility is now one of the largest in Europe with close ties to clinical care. The MR-PET scanner is part of a new UK network of these scanners working on dementia research.
The new scanner will be used to investigate the causes of bleeding in the brain that leads to certain types of stroke and dementia. In particular, researchers will use the scanner to investigate how amyloid can build up in the blood vessels of the brain. They hope to understand how this condition – called cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) – triggers bleeding and stroke and causes dementia in some people.
The MR-PET scanner will transform our ability to detect changes in the brain that occur after stroke. We hope that the findings will help us to improve diagnosis and ultimately find new ways of treating the condition.