Refining MRI detection of brain tumours
Allowing doctors to see inside their patients, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans are especially critical for diagnosing problems in the brain, from aneurysms to tumours. MRI creates images by harnessing the body’s magnetic properties. During a scan, powerful magnets realign subatomic particles, known as protons, in the body’s water molecules, then pulses of radio waves briefly perturb their alignment. When the protons return to their resting state, they emit radio waves of their own, and as different tissues vary in their response, measuring these signals allows us to build detailed images of internal structures. Modulating the characteristics of the pulses helps refine results, and researchers recently devised new techniques for improved detection of brain cancers. By selectively enhancing or dampening signals from surrounding blood vessels, they obtain clearer images, where small tumours stand out more (left panel, compared to a more traditional technique on the right), hopefully enabling earlier diagnoses.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.