Motion Suppression: Coronary motion currently is one of the major rate-limiting steps and is considered a barrier to the success of coronary MRI or even cardiac MRI at large. This barrier will be removed by a very focused engineering effort. On the image acquisition side, there will be a focus on self navigation, gradual replacement of conventional triggering schemes (ECG, Navigators), and local excitation by exploiting multi-transmit to minimize artifacts and to abbreviate scanning times. On the image reconstruction side, compressed sensing algorithms will be exploited to further maximize the spatial resolution. This effort will be part of the collaboration with Prof. Jean-Philippe Thiran at the EPFL.
Contrast Generation: There will be continuous methodology development efforts in the areas of contrast generation (both with and without exogenous contrast agents) and high field imaging. Novel image contrast enhancement methods for the better visualization of the coronary arteries, the vessel wall, and molecular agents will be part of our research objective. The use of fluorine with the ability for full background suppression (~120.3MHz) seems particularly interesting for both angiography and plaque macrophage imaging. At 7T contrast enhancement mechanisms are limited by the specific absorption rate (SAR). Therefore, novel concepts, that exploit the prolonged T1 and the shortened T2* consistent with the higher field strength need to be investigated.
Visualization and Quantification: As the MR acquisitions and applications are progressing, there is a growing need not only for coronary visualization, but also for quantitative analysis. Currently available software is often not quantitative and lumen, vessel wall and coronary endothelial function analyses remain to be integrated into one single comprehensive tool. Therefore, part of the engineering efforts is invested in post processing and analysis tools.