Spring 2019

Mighty MRI

The U’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research keeps inventing better ways to diagnose, treat, and monitor disease

Detailed views of the body’s most complex functions without a single incision. That’s the wonder of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

Experts at the University’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) have been at the forefront of developing MRI technology for decades. Today they are demonstrating how imaging can significantly expand knowledge about the ways we diagnose, treat, and monitor disease.

The beautiful brain

A versatile instrument

MRI is used for a variety of purposes in medicine today. It can give structural detail down to the millimeter scale, and unlike X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans, there is no exposure to radiation.

Innovative imaging: How philanthropy allows researchers to test new ideas

The CMRR’s Michael Garwood, Ph.D., is working to make the detailed images produced by conventional, room-sized MRI scanners also available via a small, lightweight machine. And gifts from the Schott Foundation and Minnesota Lions Diabetes Foundation are allowing Garwood’s team to build a prototype of a tabletop MR scanner to evaluate the success of a bioartificial pancreas for treating type 1 diabetes.

Supported by Minnesota Masonic Charities, Masonic Cancer Center scientist Silvia Balbo, Ph.D., aims to determine the extent of DNA damage caused by chemotherapy and other environmental toxins. Instead of the standard approach of zeroing in on one modification at a time, Balbo is using high-resolution mass spectrometry to reveal all DNA modifications caused by an exposure—accelerating the discovery of new ways to prevent the damage and development of new tools to identify those at higher risk.

With support from the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, CureFA Foundation, and Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center, the CMRR’s Pierre-Gilles Henry, Ph.D., and Christophe Lenglet, Ph.D., are using MR spectroscopy and imaging to measure energy production in the brains of people who have Friedreich’s ataxia, a neurodegenerative disease, and healthy volunteers. They hope to find a way to measure levels of the protein frataxin in the brain, which could ultimately help to determine whether new therapies are working.