A West Australian invention has become the gold standard in liver testing around the world.
It replaces painful and invasive liver biopsies with magnetic resonance imaging, using existing MRI scanners to detect and monitor iron levels in human livers. It’s a concept scientists at The University of Western Australia are now looking to apply to other diseases.
Tim St Pierre and his team created the company Resonance Health to commercialise the technology, called FerriScan, which allows medical practitioners to easily monitor patients’ liver iron regularly. It is now being used in more than 30 countries throughout the world.
Monitoring iron deposits in the liver is vitally important in patients with diseases such as thalassaemia, where the long-term buildup of iron in their body puts them at risk of developing cardiac disease.
The team is now exploring the possibility of using their techniques to examine iron levels in the livers of children with cancer. Cancer patients often require a high number of blood transfusions during treatment, which can cause an overload of iron in the body.
The team hopes to find out how these iron levels affect children, as they know it has the potential to cause liver damage and heart problems later in life.
Tim’s most recent invention, HepaFat-Scan, uses MRI scanners to more accurately measure liver fat concentrations and earned him the 2014 WA Innovator of the Year Award for Resonance Health.
This is an important step to diagnosing and treating fatty liver disease, a condition affecting 20 to 30 per cent of people in the Western world.