“Tic Tac Toe” MRI technique reveals the impact of sickle cell disease on the brain

A new development of magnetic resonance imaging has uncovered new information about how sickle cell disease affects the brain.

The technique combines whole-body 7-Tesla MRI with a “Tic Tac Toe” radiofrequency head coil system, researchers recently explained in NeuroImage: clinic.

When put to the test, the new approach revealed structural abnormalities within the hippocampus, a complex brain region that controls learning and memory, experts at the University of Pittsburgh noted. Similar injuries have been observed in other neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases.

“Our results support and extend previous reports on hippocampal volume reduction in patients with sickle cell disease, but provide more information on the specific hippocampal subfields that are affected”, Tamer Ibrahim, PhD , Director of the Pitt Radiofrequency Research Center and the 7T Bioengineering Research Program, added Thursday.

The subfields are so small that they can only be seen through ultra-high resolution imagery, such as that developed by engineers at Pitt.

Ibrahim and his co-researchers plan to further study the underlying mechanisms that cause structural changes in the brain and how they relate to cognitive performance in people with sickle cell disease.

It is estimated that 100,000 people in the United States live with this red blood cell disorder, and it disproportionately affects African Americans.

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