A team of researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Sciences Centre in London, Hammersmith Hospital and Imperial College London have started a project to produce a new way of taking MRI scans during pregnancy.
MRI scans can potentially recognize damage in babies’ brains, but the quality of the scan is significantly reduced due to the fetus’s movement. Experts are trying to come up with a way to still produce high quality images despite movement of the babies inside the womb.
“The research team has recently developed a radical new way of using MRI to produce 3-dimensional images of babies in the womb, even if the baby is moving around. Funded by an earlier grant from Action Medical Research, the breakthrough technique provides previously unobtainable measures of the sizes of different parts of the brain,” said Professor Mary Rutherford, leading the research team. She shares that a more sophisticated MRI scan, called diffusion tensor imaging, will have the capacity to show injuries and abnormalities in the unborn babies’ brains.
The researchers are trying the new imaging technique with some 30 unborn babies who are at high risk for brain damage. They will be following the babies’ progress until they are 2 years old. Aside from this, the research team is also testing the diffusion tensor imaging on 20 healthy unborn babies and comparing the results of these with those of premature infants, to study the effects of premature birth on the brain’s development.
The research is being conducted in a multidisciplinary imaging unit under Professor Jo Hajna, who has been developing cutting edge techniques for producing and analyzing MRI scans.
Says Dr. Yolande Harley, Deputy Director of Research for Action Medical Research, “This is a really exciting project as the researchers hope the revolutionary new scans they aim to develop will benefit pregnant women whose babies are at risk of developing brain problems. The information obtained could be invaluable in the design of new treatments for brain damage, treatments that could dramatically transform the whole of a baby’s life for the better.”
SOURCES: • November 24, 2010. “New Brain Imaging Techniques to Map Unborn Babies’ Brains” PRWeb.com • November 29, 2010. “Brain Imaging Technology Gives Doctors A Look at Unborn Babies’ Brains” GrowingYourBaby.com