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Fast Field-cycling: A new imaging method to measure disease progression in patients with osteoarthritis.

Award Details

  • Principal Investigator
    Mr George Ashcroft
  • Type of grant
    Project Grant
  • Amount Awarded
  • Institute
    University of Aberdeen
  • Location
  • Status
  • Start Date
  • Grant reference number
  • Condition

What are the aims of this research?

We wish to test a novel type of imaging method called fast field-cycling which could give us a more accurate measurement of the protein content in cartilage. This would significantly help in both clinical studies of osteoarthritis and in its treatment.

Why is this research important?

Osteoarthritis remains a major cause of disability worldwide and at present there are no drugs that can provide a cure or modify the disease. In order to develop such drugs we need to find new ways to measure drug effectiveness in clinical studies. One of the earliest changes that occur in the articular cartilage (the sliding surface of a joint) is a change its protein content. While current imaging methods, such as MRI scanners, provide a guide to the protein changes they are not accurate.

In fast-field cycling the magnetic field is switched quickly, hence the fast, during the scan resulting in more accurate images. From our pilot studies we know that fast field-cycling can measure protein concentrations in human tissue. This shows us that there are clear differences in protein content and structure between normal and osteoarthritic cartilage. The idea of using protein concentration to monitor disease progression in osteoarthritis is not new. However, fast field-cycling is a new technique which could allow us to accurately measure these changes in living tissue.

We will compare normal cartilage to osteoarthritic cartilage taken from patients who are already undergoing surgery. In particular we wish to measure the changes in protein using fast field-cycling to compare normal and diseased cartilage. Standard laboratory methods will also be used to measure the protein levels. Are there any differences in measurements between the hip and the knee? We also want to find out if our measurements are directly related to the severity of the arthritis.

How will the findings benefit patients?

We hope to show that fast field-cycling can accurately measure changes that take place in the cartilage in osteoarthritis. Although this study will not provide immediate patient benefit, the key results will inform future studies. In the long term, if fast field-cycling shows significant advantages over standard imaging methods, this could lead to a totally new type of scanner. We could use this scanner to assess disease severity and to measure treatment effectiveness.

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