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Improve MRI medical diagnosis and reduce the cost of treatment

​Three teams of French researchers (CEA, Inserm, and G2ELab) have joined forces within the framework of the European project IDentIFY to develop a new type of MRI scanner: less costly yet far more accurate. The IDentiTY project aims to develop a new MRI technique called Fast Field-Cycling MRI or FFC-MRI, with a view to demonstrating its ability to characterize signals emitted from living cells, before going onto work towards its commercial roll-out. The Leti and Inac Institutes (CEA, UGA), have substantial expertise in the technologies required for the FFC-MRI technique. 

Published on 6 July 2016

​FFC-MRI was first conceived at the University of Aberdeen and, compared with conventional MRI techniques, it uses a variable magnetic observation field, ranging from high values to very low values, below the geomagnetic field. Rapid changes in these magnetic field values are at the crux of this technology: providing an image quality that enables the vast amount of new medical information to be used. The cost of the FFC-MRI is lower than a standard MRI, which uses fundamentally different technology. To ensure the provision of quality images, with a good signal-to-noise ratio and a high spatial resolution, the standard MRI technique uses a constant (high) magnetic field, which is typically one thousand times higher than the geomagnetic field. This type of field is expensive to produce.  


"This technology offers an exceptional occasion to improve health care while controlling costs, namely in the fight against cancer, which has the fastest-growing pathology rate among the public", underlines Marie-Noëlle Semeria, Director of the Leti Institute, part of CEA Tech. "The three partners from Grenoble involved in the IDentIFY project are testament to the synergy between Grenoble-based expertise in medicine and advanced technologies such as magnetism, with myriad applications".


The biomedical results already obtained at Aberdeen using FFC-MRI demonstrate the major impact of this technology, both in terms of diagnosis and the continued medical care of serious illnesses. Pilot studies have demonstrated the capacity of this technique to detect and identify cancers, arthritis and sarcopenia, a disease characterized by a loss of muscle mass and strength, linked to the aging process.


With regards to cancer, Fast Field-Cycling MRI will make it possible to better classify tumors, to characterize peritumoral areas and to monitor the response of diseased tissue to various treatments, such as chemotherapy.

In addition, this new technology could detect the first modifications to cerebral tissues, caused by physical-chemical deteriorations and neurodegenerative diseases: this could help achieve early diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.


Renowned expertise of the Grenoble centers


It was not by chance that the University of Aberdeen came to Grenoble to find the skills required to implement this new technology. For more than 50 years, following in the footsteps of the physician Louis Néel (awarded the Nobel physics prize in 1970), laboratories in Grenoble have achieved global recognition as leaders in the field of fundamental and applied magnetism. This expertise has resulted in exceptionally accurate control of static and time-variable magnetic fields, with low and high-frequency, providing essential impetus for the development of high-performance FFC-MRI scanners.
Within the framework of this project, the G2Elab and Leti laboratories shall install imaging prototypes to measure magnetic field disturbances and provide the related active compensation systems. The implementation of this new technology necessitates the ability to rapidly control produced and ambient magnetic fields in a highly accurate manner.

To achieve this level of control, mathematic models of such magnetic fields shall be developed by G2ELab. These models will be used by Leti to create a new type of magnetic shielding, capable of cancelling out ambient disturbances in real time.


Over a period of four years, the IDentIFY project will pool additional expertise from universities and research centers based in France, Germany, Finland, Italy, Poland and the UK. The entire project will be coordinated by the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.


French partner organizations and their respective input into the IDentIFY project:

  • G2ELab (CNRS/UGA/Grenoble INP): measure and model magnetic fields, specifically parasite fields caused by the environment.
  • Inserm U1205 (le Laboratoire de Biomédecine Translationnelle, Oncophysique, et Neurotechnologies de l'Inserm): Development of MRI methods, tests, validation and bioclinical characterization of human samples, in association with the CHU de Grenoble and the centre de ressource biologique.
  • For CEA :
  • Le Laboratoire d'électronique et de technologie de l'information (Leti) : Development of coils to correct magnetic fields and the associated electronic components
  • L'Institut des Nanosciences et Cryogénie (INAC) : Extensive experience in Fast Field Cycling NMR methods and in the research of physical-chemical information that can be obtained from theoretical modeling; forging ties with researchers to create the IDentITY project and development of scientific partnerships.


    In addition to the University of Aberdeen, the Italian company Stelar (Mede, Italy), which was the first ever company to manufacture Fast Field Cycling NMR instruments for commercial distribution, the Varmie and Mazurie University (Olqztyn, Poland), the Technische Universität Ilmenau (Germany) and the International Electric Co. (Helsinki, Finland).​

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