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New MRI Technique Could Be Used to Detect Breast and Prostate Cancers

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Jun 2023

Correlated diffusion imaging (CDI) is an innovative MRI technique that offers enhanced visualization of the movement of water molecules in tissue by combining and analyzing MRI signals obtained at different gradient pulse strengths and timings. Initially developed as a promising imaging tool for cancer detection, new research has now uncovered its potential for assessing various conditions, including COVID-19's impact on the brain as well as detecting breast and prostate cancers.

Engineers at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON, Canada) had previously devised CDI as a means to enhance imaging measurements for cancer detection. Recognizing its capabilities, scientists at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (Toronto, Canada) embarked on a groundbreaking study to explore CDI's potential in identifying brain changes associated with COVID-19. The subsequent tests confirmed the hypothesis. CDI revealed altered diffusion patterns in the frontal-lobe white matter, showing less restricted water molecule diffusion in COVID-19 patients. Simultaneously, it exhibited more restricted diffusion in the cerebellum of individuals affected by COVID-19.

Image: New MRI technique that captures COVID-19’s impact on the brain could also detect breast and prostate cancers (Photo courtesy of Freepik)
Image: New MRI technique that captures COVID-19’s impact on the brain could also detect breast and prostate cancers (Photo courtesy of Freepik)

The Rotman study is one of the few to shed light on the effects of COVID-19 on the brain. Significantly, it is the first to report diffusion abnormalities in the white matter of the cerebellum. While the study aimed to demonstrate changes rather than specific brain damage resulting from COVID-19, its final report does discuss potential sources of such alterations and their potential connections to diseases and damage. Future investigations could delve into whether COVID-19 leads to actual brain tissue damage and explore any potential changes in the brain's grey matter.

“Hopefully, this research can lead to better diagnoses and treatments for COVID-19 patients,” said Alexander Wong, a systems design engineering professor at University of Waterloo who developed CDI. “And that could just be the beginning for CDI as it might be used to understand degenerative processes in other diseases such as Alzheimer’s or to detect breast or prostate cancers.”

Related Links:
University of Waterloo
Rotman Research Institute 

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