7T MRI visualizes sickle cell disease's effect on the brain

By AuntMinnie.com staff writers

June 4, 2021 -- In a new study, 7-tesla MRI shows the often severe effects that sickle cell disease has on the brain, particularly parts that control learning and memory, according to research published in Neuroimage: Clinical.

People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells with abnormal hemoglobin, which causes the cells to mutate into a crescent shape that makes it difficult for the cells to move through small blood vessels -- blocking blood and oxygen flow and damaging tissue, the researchers noted. Black Americans are disproportionally affected by the disease.

The study used 7-tesla MRI to estimate hippocampal volumes of 37 people with sickle cell disease and 40 healthy individuals; the researchers used a radiofrequency antenna they developed to improves the resolution of 7-tesla MRI images of the brain.

The group found that those study participants with sickle cell disease had significantly smaller volumes compared with those who did not have the condition. More research is needed, according to the researchers.

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