Valencia, October 23rd. The Institute of Instrumentation for Molecular Imaging (i3M), a joint center of the Superior Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), has received 2.5 million euros from funds from the European Innovation Council (EIC) to improve its pioneering portable magnetic resonance imaging system.
This low-cost, portable, and high-diagnostic quality equipment obtained the first magnetic resonance images outside clinical settings last year. Now, the research team wants to expand its application to obtain brain images as well as improve the quality of the images. The project to make it possible started last week in Valencia, according to a statement from the academic institution.
The i3M team, led by CSIC researcher Joseba Alonso, has been responsible for developing this portable system. In 2022, they published the first results of this device in 'Scientific Reports', which uses three patents developed by the i3M and was developed in collaboration with its spin-off, PhysioMRI Tech. It is a scanner for taking images of arms and legs, lightweight, and low-power, half that of a microwave oven.
The device developed at the Valencia research center "drastically" reduces the cost of magnetic resonance imaging devices, from one million euros to about 50,000. In addition, it is much lighter, weighing only 250 kilos, as it has transitioned from a superconductive magnet to a matrix of thousands of small permanent magnets like those in refrigerators. This allowed its use in the Motorcycle Grand Prix held in November 2022 at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Cheste.
The new prototype of portable magnetic resonance imaging that they will develop thanks to European funding "is an evolution of the system with which we obtained the first magnetic resonance images in a patient's home, as well as at the Motorcycle World Championship last November," explained Joseba Alonso. That first system has produced "fabulous" results and is now located at the La Fe Hospital in Valencia, said the CSIC researcher.
The second generation, called NextMRI, will incorporate two main innovations: "It will have a larger field of view, so it can be used for neuroimaging in addition to extremity imaging, substantially expanding the range of possible applications and use cases; and the image quality will be drastically increased by introducing neural networks," Alonso said.
This Artificial Intelligence technique allows computers to process data in a similar way to the human brain. They will also introduce changes in the mechanics and structure of the device "to continue enhancing the ergonomics and portability of the system."
The project is named after the new prototype: NextMRI. It has a duration of three years, officially starting last Friday with a meeting at the i3M facilities at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.
In addition to the Valencia research center, PhysioMRI Tech is participating, responsible for the certification and future commercialization of the system; Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC, Netherlands), which will be in charge of developing artificial intelligence architectures to enhance the diagnostic value of images generated by the system; IIS La Fe, which will test the machine for its application in neurological pathologies; and Bergman Clinics (Germany), which will do the same for musculoskeletal applications.
In addition to coordinating the project, one of the 19 selected by the EIC in July as part of its Transition program, out of 180 submitted, the i3M will be in charge of designing the entire system (magnetism, electronics, and mechanics) and developing high-efficiency control tools and pulse sequences to accelerate clinical diagnosis with low-field magnetic resonance imaging systems.