News Feature | May 11, 2016

Siemens, Case Western Collaborate To Establish Imaging Biomarkers With MR Fingerprinting

By Suzanne Hodsden

Siemens Healthineers is teaming up with scientists at Case Western Reserve to further develop a technology known as magnetic resonance (MR) fingerprinting, an advanced MR technique that could eventually establish imaging biomarkers to make MR scans more quantitative and less subjective. This paradigm shift for MR technology would reduce scan times and generate substantial cost-savings.

A magnetic resonance scan uses a magnetic field and radio waves to take pictures of internal organs, and traditional MR imaging relies on settings established by the technician, depending on the MR parameters. These images are both captured and interpreted by individual clinicians with inconsistent results.

To reduce potential for variance and inaccuracy, researchers have developed more quantitative techniques using MR technology. MR fingerprinting (MRF) uses the data collected by scans and applies a pattern recognition algorithm to match tissue characteristics to those contained in a predefined database.

“MRF is expected to be much more accurate and reproducible than traditional MRI and should improve multi-center studies and significantly reduce reader bias when diagnostic imaging is performed,” wrote the European Society of Radiology (ESR) in an article published by Imaging Insights.  Because the technique can examine multiple parameters simultaneously, the process could lead to reliable imaging biomarkers.

“The goal of MR Fingerprinting is to specifically identify and characterize individual tissues and diseases. But try to get there. We’ve had to rethink a lot of what we do in MRI,” said Mark Griswold, professor of radiology at Case Western Reserve, in a press release

MRF technology is a “paradigm shift” for MR technology, reducing scan times to minutes and producing more quantitative data faster and earlier than is possible with traditional MR technology. Earlier diagnoses and quicker scans mean significant cost-savings for healthcare systems, said Siegfried Trattnig of the Center of Excellence for High Field Magnetic Resonance at the Medical University of Vienna.

Case Western scientists have already tested the technology clinically with patients diagnosed with prostate and breast cancers, and have examined cardiac function in patients with multiple sclerosis. The research team plans to use the collaboration with Siemens to explore new potential applications for the technique. Griswold added that Case Western has been working with Siemens for 30 years to develop MRI technologies.

Siemens’ goal within the collaboration is to improve MRF’s reproducible capabilities and function in across a variety of MR scanners. Christoph Zindel, head of the business line of MR at Siemens, commented in a statement that innovation like this was only possible when industry collaborated with research.

Siemens Healthineers recently rebranded from its former moniker, Siemens Healthcare, as it continues its M&A strategy to strengthen its imaging portfolio while expanding into managed services and consulting businesses.

As part of an executive shakeup last year, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser appointed Bernd Montag as CEO of Siemens Healthcare, a move that some saw as the beginning of Siemens’ long-term plan to divest its healthcare business into a stand-alone entity.