New MRI technique allows detailed imaging of complex muscle structures and muscle damage

October 30, 2012
New MRI technique allows detailed imaging of complex muscle structures and muscle damage
A still from a video showing the muscles of the pelvic floor of a test subject. Click on the image to see the video.

TU/e and the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam have together developed a technique that allows detailed 3D imaging of complex muscle structures of patients. It also allows muscle damage to be detected very precisely. This new technique opens the way to much better and more patient-friendly diagnosis of muscular diseases. It also allows accurate, non-invasive muscle examinations among top athletes. Martijn Froeling will receive a PhD for this research at TU/e today, Monday 29 October.

Froeling uses (DTI), an that allows the movements of water molecules in living tissue to be viewed. Because muscles are made of fibers, the movements of water molecules in the direction of the fibers are different from those in other directions. This characteristic allows muscles to be imaged with a high level of detail. This was already possible on a small scale with simple muscles, but thanks to Froeling's work it can now also be done on a larger scale and with complex muscle structures. More importantly, this improved technique also reveals very small , because of the different movements of the water molecules in damaged .

3D images

To reach these results, Froeling improved the data acquisition process – the way the MRI scanner images the muscle under examination. This has to be performed relatively quickly, because it is uncomfortable for patients to lie in an for a long time, but at the same time it has to provide sufficiently detailed data. He also improved the processing of the acquired data into reliable 3D images. Physicians can now easily view complex muscle structures from all angles on-screen. No new equipment was needed; the researchers used standard widely available clinical systems.

Marathon runners

As a practical study, Froeling imaged a range of subjects including the thighs of marathon runners at different times: one week before a marathon, two days after it, and again three weeks after. He was able to visualize the muscle damage following the marathon. This was still visible after three weeks, even though the runners themselves in many cases no longer reported any pain in their muscles. Another study was of the pelvic floor in women; a good example of a highly complex muscle structure. The technique has proved to be capable of imaging this structure with great accuracy, which makes it potentially very valuable for the diagnosis of conditions such as uterine prolapse.

Wide application area

AMC Amsterdam and TU/e now intend to use this technique in studies of post polio syndrome and spinal muscular atrophy. Froeling believes there are numerous potential applications: there are around 600 different types of muscle disease and damage, and the new technique will improve the ability to study these. However further studies will first be needed: although the technique allows muscle disease or injury to be imaged it does not reveal the precise cause, which may be tearing, fat infiltration or other abnormalities. Clarification is also still needed on what are the normal values for healthy men and women of different ages, to provide a reference framework for identifying abnormalities in different groups of patients. Another kind of application is in examinations of top athletes, to allow timely detection of muscle damage or better estimation of the recovery time needed after injuries.

Explore further: Researchers quantify muscle soreness

Related Stories

Researchers quantify muscle soreness

January 23, 2012
Quantifying how sore a person is after a long workout is a challenge for doctors and researchers, but scientists from Loma Linda and Asuza Pacific Universities think they may have figured it out. Their research article describing ...

At the right place at the right time—new insights into muscle stem cells

September 17, 2012
Muscles have a pool of stem cells which provides a source for muscle growth and for regeneration of injured muscles. The stem cells must reside in special niches of the muscle for efficient growth and repair.

Extreme cold good for exercise recovery

December 7, 2011
Athletes go to great lengths to protect their muscles and recover from exercise-induced muscle damage, but there has been little work to determine what methods are most effective.

New research says muscles buckle when relaxed

November 1, 2011
Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other conditions involving muscle spasticity be better understood following the discovery by Australian researchers that muscle fibres buckle when at rest.

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.