Several neurological disorders have been associated with disrupted glucose metabolism in the brain, so this condition is sometimes important to monitor. Impaired glucose metabolism in general is known as prediabetes, and the condition has also been associated with the development of cancer. However, typical methods for checking glucose metabolism in the brain not only involve exposing patients to radiation, but they are also not that good because they have poor resolution and are not able to check other metabolic functions at the same time. Researchers have now developed a new approach that can overcome these challenges. By combining magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a harmless glucose solution, scientists were able to easily visualize glucose metabolism in the brain. The work has been reported in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
In this study, the researchers measured blood glucose levels over a period of 90 minutes in healthy volunteers. Unlike current techniques, a drink containing small levels of radioactive chemicals was not used. Instead, individuals consumed a glucose solution that is similar to a can of soda. The MRI then checked glucose concentrations indirectly by monitoring drops in signal intensity.
"The main advantage of this indirect method is that it can be used on other MR devices without any difficulties, because no additional hardware components are required, as is the case with other, comparable approaches," explained principal investigator Wolfgang Bogner of the Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy at MedUni Vienna.
The current process involves injecting patients with tiny amounts of radioactive glucose, then applying positron emission tomography with computed tomography (PET-CT) to check metabolism.
More work will be needed to confirm these findings before this technology is in wide use. But it could be a far less invasive way to help patients, technicians, and clinicians check glucose metabolism in the brain or localize tumors, since glucose metabolism is often impaired in tumor cells.