Magnetic Detection & Imaging
The research of the Magnetic Detection and Imaging group (MD&I) is on magnetic interactions with human beings and bio-materials. Its research is multidisciplinary, operating at the interface of physics and medicine. MD&I has a background in applied physics but made a transition to medical applications. Each year, approximately 5 PhD’s and 10 MSc students work with the group, coming from different educational lines: Applied Physics, Biomedical Engineering and Technical Medicine.
An important research goal is to translate complex (magnetic) detection technology to simpler techniques that can be used in a regular hospital setting. The first challenge is then to translate existing radiation based clinical investigation methods, to the magnetic domain. Important challenges for that path are limitation the classical radiation dose for patients and hospital staff. In addition to this safety aspect, the magnetic route is in many cases logistically the simplest approach for the hospital. In combination with a unique worldwide availability the magnetic path can then be the best route, for many patient cases. The MD&I group co-organized the world’s first clinical trial on magnetic detection of Sentinel Lymph nodes in breast cancer, in collaboration with surgery departments of Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, MST hospital in Enschede and five hospitals in the UK. Inspired by the experience in this earlier clinical research trajectory, the development of a novel detection route for magnetic nanoparticles in the human body is started. The new magnetic technique is named “DiffMag” and allows a very selective detection of nanoparticles in a patient. The doctor at the operating table than uses a relatively small handheld detection system to localise the so-called sentinel lymph node in the patient.
A second focus of the MD&I group is MR imaging, in many variants. At the UT we use a unique low-field MRI system, scanning at only 0.25T. Its open design and the ability to rotate the subject makes this MRI scanner unique and interesting for several research topics. The first example, with a high clinical relevance, is the improvement of the therapies for women with disorders in the pelvic area. These patients are found mainly in the post-pregnancy phase, but the issue of making a scan in lying and standing position is important for many other patient groups too. In addition to the MRI-scanner placed a the UT, the MD&I group does clinical MRI research with medical partners, e.g. in: Utrecht, Nijmegen, Groningen, Enschede, Hengelo and Almelo. The research questions in these clinical programs are then much broader, covering all possible medical specialisations. This ranges from entirely clinically driven (mainly in the course on Technical Medicine) to more explorative or curiosity driven (e.g. in the course on Bio-Medical Engineering).