Dr Scott Allen is a Senior Post Doctoral Researcher at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN). Here he blogs about his experience as a research volunteer in an MRI scanner.
Today, as part of on-going work by Doctor Tom Jenkins and Prof Pamela Shaw at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), I volunteered as a healthy control to have a full body MRI scan.
Mitochondria and MRI
Tom’s work is very similar to my own; he aims to determine whether there are differences in the way that people with motor system disorders produce energy compared with healthy volunteers. Mitochondria are known as the “powerhouses” of human cells and produce energy. Tom wants to find out whether there is evidence for abnormal function of these mitochondria by doing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain.
The type of MRI (phosphorus spectroscopy) can measure the levels of chemicals produced by the mitochondria within the human brain. Tom is also interested in determining how problems with motor nerves impact on muscles; this can be investigated using an MRI scan. The hope is that Tom can use this technique to diagnose patients early in the disease course.
The full body MRI scan
I had to lie completely still in the chamber for one hour without moving as the team took images of my whole body. As I was lying there I thought what must it be like for people living with MND towards the end of the disease?
I couldn’t move for an hour and all I wanted to do was lift my legs, scratch my nose, move my fingers and get more comfy. People living with MND have that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the end, it must be terrible.
I had the knowledge that in an hour it would be over, I could get up, stretch my back and walk around, people living with MND don’t have this luxury. This is why Tom’s work and others working at SITraN is vital to understand how the disease process affects the metabolism of patients, so we can understand how MND affects metabolic pathway interaction. Only then can we develop diagnostic tools, find metabolic biomarkers of disease and perhaps develop energy supplementation regimes to improve the quality of life of people living with MND and find a cure for the disease.