CTSI-CMRR national conference paves the way for ultra-high field MRI advancements

CTSI is helping drive new research and clinical opportunities in ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging (UHF MRI), evidenced by a national conference hosted in collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR).

Called “Toward the Clinical Translation of Ultra-high field MRI”, the November 18-19 conference sought to identify the promise of UHF MRI to address unmet clinical needs and confront what’s needed to fully realize the technology’s potential.

Clinicians, scientists, and trainees from around the country—including 23 Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) institutions—gathered at an opportune time as the FDA had recently approved the use of 7 tesla (T) MRI technology for clinical imaging of the head and knee. As the technology has continued to advance and become more widely available it is opening new doors to better detect, diagnose, and treat disease. 

How CTSAs can accelerate UHF MRI adoption and discoveries

CTSA institutions are uniquely positioned to advance UHF MRI research as they are typically early adopters of novel technology. 

As is typically the case, economies of scale are needed to support the exploration of new technology, even after its approval, to establish compelling clinical applications justifying the increased expense and driving broader adoption. This exploration is facilitated by the CTSA’s Trial Innovation Network which provides resources for streamlining multi-site clinical trials with the goal of identifying uses that impact patient care and establishing best practices supported by prospectively designed studies. 

This will help facilitate the use of UHF-MRI by researchers and clinicians at their home CTSA institutions.

“As a CTSA network, we have the potential to be leaders in moving UHF imaging technology forward,” said Greg Metzger, PhD, an Associate Professor with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Radiology and Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, a world-renowned pioneer of and leader in UHF MRI. “Clinicians and scientists from around the country rallied around this vision at the conference, which is serving as an important step in harnessing the technology’s full clinical potential.”

Catalyzing multi-site partnerships

Presenter Daniel Hanley, MD, a Trial Innovation Network leader from Johns Hopkins, shared a couple possibilities for multi-site UHF MRI trials based on what he heard from other presentations:

  • Epidemiology/biomarkers
  • Interventional/procedural pathways

This is a starting point, but there are many ways researchers can collaborate with one another.

Presentation recap

The conference featured six sessions, each with presentations from a wide range of universities and institutions:

  • The historical development of 7T UHF MRI: Development and application of UHF MRI in the past 20 years, including the use of hybrid combinations (UHF MRI, PET, CT, SPEC, ANGIO). 
  • UHF analysis of clinical applications in the brain: Current and potential application of UHF MRI in diagnosing and managing aneurysms, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and mood disorders.
  • The state of UHF imaging in musculoskeletal and body imaging: The status of applying 7T imaging in the management of musculoskeletal disorders and, more broadly, in the torso (where the FDA has yet to approve usage). 
  • Multinuclear imaging and novel contrasts: Applications largely outside the reach of lower field MR studies, such as the potential of spectroscopic imaging for clinical applications, detecting neurochemical changes in Alzheimer’s disease, and studying brain tumor metabolism.
  • Safety and technology: Challenges surrounding RF coil design, developing standardized workflows, and establishing new norms for patient safety. 
  • Multi-site trial support: How UHF MRI might benefit from involving the Trial Innovation Network, featuring a case study from Johns Hopkins.

More details about the presenters, topics, roundtables, and key takeaways can be found in the conference summary

Creating momentum

Attendees left the conference with new knowledge about UHF imaging applications, technologies, and CTSA support mechanisms (as indicated in a post-event evaluation), poising CTSA hubs to drive the research in the area. Christina Pressl, MD, MS, of Rockefeller University emphasized the value she received by attending, adding:

“I have benefited tremendously from having the opportunity to hear top leaders in the field of UHF MRI present and discuss current cutting edge technology and applications of UHF MR imaging in the clinic. I am now in a better position to formulate research grant proposals that may include UHF MR imaging so that my projects may contribute and help accelerate clinical translation.”

Future conferences

The University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and Center for Magnetic Resonance Research plan to hold another conference on UHF MRI in the future. Details will be posted on the conference website.