Carnegie Mellon Press Release: March 3, 2004
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Press Release

Contact:
Lauren Ward
412-268-7761

For immediate release:
March 3, 2004

Pittsburgh NMR Center for Biomedical Research at Carnegie Mellon Receives $6.7 Million To Continue its Work

PITTSBURGH—The Pittsburgh NMR Center for Biomedical Research has received a five-year, $6.7 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to pursue innovative work in applying nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to biomedical sciences.

The Pittsburgh NMR Center for Biomedical Research is a joint endeavor of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh and is administered through the MPC Corporation.

"We are very pleased to receive this grant, which will help us continue to make major contributions to the rapidly growing field of NMR in biology and medicine," said Chien Ho, director of the center and professor of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon.

Funds will allow investigators to pursue research in five technological research and development projects in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), including:

  • Non-Invasive Detection of Allograft Rejection Using MRI. Organ transplantation is the preferred treatment for patients with end-stage organ failure; however, transplanted organs often fail when a patient's immune system rejects the new implant. Early diagnosis and treatment of organ rejection is critical. Center investigators are developing novel, non-invasive MRI-based methods to monitor organ function and the accumulation of immune cells at a transplanted organ. One of the center's primary goals is to establish a non-invasive, reliable and sensitive technique that not only detects acute rejection, but also correctly identifies rejection grades. With further development, such technology should help physicians detect organ rejection at early stages and also improve a patient's quality of life by reducing the number of invasive, post-transplantation tissue biopsies.

  • In-Vivo Magnetic Resonance Microscopy. Tracking the initiation and progression of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) is extremely difficult using current imaging technologies. NMR Center scientists are making significant advances in understanding animal models of autoimmune diseases using magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM). Used to study living animals, MRM provides near cellular detail of internal organs. Center scientists are developing quantitative methods to perform "virtual" pathologic analyses of diseased brain tissues with MRM. These analytical tools will unambiguously discriminate between nerve destruction caused by MS and other types of neurological injury that often appear indistinguishable using conventional MRI. Project scientists also will design MRM methods to track immune cells inside animals to understand the role these cells play in autoimmunity. Given its promise, MRM could one day provide an important tool for pre-clinical drug testing for diseases such as MS.

  • Quantitative Perfusion Imaging. Adequate blood flow is crucial for proper maintenance of normal metabolic and physiologic states in animals and humans. MRI offers an excellent, non-invasive, method to measure the blood flow through tissue and organs. NMR Center investigators are exploring new methods to accurately measure blood flow, which may be used to assess organ function and health.

  • MR Bioimaging Methodologies for Monitoring Function of Transplanted Organs. Center investigators are exploring ways to process MRI signals to provide an extensive non-invasive report on how a transplanted organ functions. MRI research performed to date has revealed new aspects of transplanted kidney function in laboratory animals, providing an excellent foundation to establish advanced MRI methods to monitor transplanted organ functions non-invasively in patients.

  • High Resolution Dynamic Imaging. Center investigators are exploring ways to increase the speed and sensitivity of MRI methods, which is fundamental to advancing MRI in research and clinical settings.

The grant also supports five collaborative research projects and a number of service projects to allow advances made in the technological and research development projects to be applied to solve important, independently funded biomedical problems.

The Pittsburgh NMR Center is dedicated to advancing state-of-the-art applications of in vivo MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy to understanding tissue and organ function and to making these tools available to the greater biomedical research community. Established in 1986 and funded continuously since 1988 by the National Institutes of Health, the Pittsburgh NMR Center is the only national NIH-supported center dedicated to advancing molecular, cellular and functional imaging using small animals.

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