A new variation of MRI – called DIANA or direct imaging of neuronal activity – hopes to track the propagation of brain signals on millisecond timescales
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A new variation of MRI – called DIANA or direct imaging of neuronal activity – hopes to track the propagation of brain signals on millisecond timescales

Pittsburgh, PA -- March 16, 2023, – Neuro-Innovators (NIV) is a clinical-stage drug company focused on accelerating and enhancing the neuroplasticity of the brain (i.e., the capacity of the brain to remodel, rewire, and recover) in patients suffering with brain injuries and diseases. We engineer combinational drugs that promote cellular growth and repair in the brain.

The brain is a complex and dynamic organ, which is housed in the skull. Therefore, it is difficult to take high-resolution images in a non-invasive manner -- particularly, if a neuroscientist or physician wanted to see details at the cellular level and understand how a cell was changing millisecond by millisecond in response to a stimulus. A new twist on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) might facilitate this type of brain imaging.

MRI is a non-invasive imaging technology that generates three-dimensional images of living tissue, using magnetic fields and radio waves. The magnetic field excites and detects the change in the direction of the rotational axis of protons found in the water in the tissue. A powerful magnet forces protons in the body to align with that field. When a radiofrequency current is then pulsed through the patient, the protons are stimulated and spin out of equilibrium, pulled by the magnetic field. When the radiofrequency field is turned off, the MRI sensors can detect the energy released, as the protons realign with the magnetic field. The time it takes for the protons to realign with the magnetic field, as well as the amount of energy released, depends on the environment and the chemical nature of the molecules. Because different materials have distinct magnetic properties, physicians can tell the differences between various types of tissues or monitor changes in tissue over time.

A variation on MRI – call BOLD fMRI (blood oxygen level–dependent functional MRI) is used to detect changes in blood flow to particular regions of the brain as a proxy for neuron cell activity. Changes in blood flow occur over several seconds, which is much slower than the millisecond timescale of neuron signaling activity. Because of the slower movement of blood flow, BOLD fMRI would show a whole neural pathway, but not the actual wave of the neuron signaling.

A new variation of MRI – called DIANA or direct imaging of neuronal activity – hopes to track the propagation of brain signals on millisecond timescales, according to a study published by Science magazine on October 13, 2022. The technique uses existing MRI equipment, but with a burst of quick images over a very small area. Physicians and scientists can see high-resolution changes on a millisecond basis by viewing the whole sequence of images. The technique is still being tested, since it may be susceptible to so-called motion artifacts -- disruptions caused by the animal or patient moving between takes. The technique also requires powerful MRI equipment.

At NIV, we keenly follow the development of medical devices and tools that will allow for greater understanding of the human brain and how disease or injury alters the brain. Our first combinational drug (NIV-001) is targeted at patients recovering from a stroke. Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the US and globally, with 7 million and 100 million patients, respectively. Historically, stroke patients have, at most, undergone repetitive exercise and stimulation programs for a few months after their strokes, in an attempt to regain lost motor functions. While these therapies do help, most patients are still left with significant deficits in mobility, speech, cognition, and other critical functions.   Our drug, NIV-001, is designed to increase the intensity and duration of brain plasticity (the ability of the brain to change through new growth and repair). NIV-001 is a pharmacological layer, to be used in conjunction with exercise and stimulation programs so that the rehabilitation activity is optimized. We have filed multiple drug patents and are preparing for FDA clinical trials. 

Previous Article George F. Wittenberg, MD, PhD brings his stroke rehabilitation expertise to Neuro-Innovators’ Scientific Advisory Board
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