Public Release: 

Molecular imaging prototype looks deep into soft tissues of the brain and other organs

First-of-its-kind study introduces a new hybrid imaging system combining molecular imaging with magnetic resonance technology

Society of Nuclear Medicine

SALT LAKE CITY--Research unveiled at SNM's 57th Annual Meeting points to the possibility of a new hybrid molecular imaging system that uses single photon emission tomography (SPECT) and magnetic resonance technology (MR). The new technology could provide a greater depth of information about an array of biological processes and anatomical information including soft-tissue contrast, which is important for many diagnoses.

"By combining SPECT and MR imaging in a single scan, researchers can acquire fused images that provide meaningful information for brain studies, heart imaging and a range of other applications," said Benjamin M. W. Tsui, Ph.D., lead researcher and professor of radiology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. "Imaging the human brain using this technique could revolutionize diagnostic radiology and improve patient care."

Previous studies have been conducted for the development of other hybrid molecular imaging systems that combine positron emission tomography (PET) and MR, but this is the first study evaluating the feasibility of a SPECT/MR system. The introduction of MR to SPECT imaging not only adds useful anatomical and biochemical information, but it would also help to compensate for other image degrading factors, such as photon attenuation and scatter, which can be present in SPECT imaging.

The research team developed a fully MR-compatible, stationary ring-type SPECT prototype using cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) solid-state detector modules. All components used for the new preclinical SPECT system were entirely composed of non-ferrous materials to avoid image artifacts that could otherwise occur within the magnetic field. In this study, researchers did not have to rotate the SPECT component, but the imaging scanner was able to capture dynamic data using multiple projection views. Researchers also investigated image reconstruction methods that would best work with data acquired from the new imaging system. This study proves that SPECT/MR is a viable technology that could enhance the diagnostic capability of SPECT alone and provide additional information that SPECT/CT cannot. Plans to extend the preclinical prototype to clinical brain SPECT/MR are underway and clinical trials are expected to begin within three or four years.


Dr. Tsui's research group for this study was part of a collaboration that included the University of California, Irvine, and was led by Gamma Medica-Ideas, Northridge, Calif., under the support of an NIH SBIR research grant--NIH NIBIB Small Business Innovative Research Grant R44EB006712.

Scientific Paper 409: B.M. Tsui, J. Xu, S. Chen, J. Yu, Radiology, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Md.; D. Meier, B.E. Patt, D.J. Wagenaar, Gamma Medica-Ideas, Inc., Northridge, Calif.; "The application of a compact MR-compatible SPECT system for small animal SPECT/MR imaging and tracer kinetics studies," SNM's 57th Annual Meeting, June 5𔃇, 2010, Salt Lake City, Utah.

About SNM--Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy

SNM is an international scientific and medical organization dedicated to raising public awareness about what molecular imaging is and how it can help provide patients with the best health care possible. SNM members specialize in molecular imaging, a vital element of today's medical practice that adds an additional dimension to diagnosis, changing the way common and devastating diseases are understood and treated.

SNM's more than 17,000 members set the standard for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine practice by creating guidelines, sharing information through journals and meetings and leading advocacy on key issues that affect molecular imaging and therapy research and practice. For more information, visit

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