By 2020, multiple sites worldwide will be trialing a non-invasive test for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The machine can determine if soldiers and emergency workers are prone to the disorder, and if so, they may be rested and not immediately deployed again.
An early warning for changes leading to breast cancer is undergoing clinical evaluation in four Australian hospitals, using the same technology.
Years before breast cancer strikes, the technology, an elaboration of MRI known as magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), detects the cellular changes that prepare the way.
As well as assisting early intervention, this would allow the 50 per cent of women at high risk for breast cancer, but not carrying BRCA breast cancer genes, to know if they have deregulation in their tissues.
The research is led by Professor Carolyn Mountford, the Translational Research Institute (TRI) CEO, who has worked on MRS for nearly 30 years at several Australian universities and the Harvard Medical School.
Its transformation into a medical technology is in collaboration with the Draper Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Siemens Healthcare.
MRS provides information about the chemical environment in tissues and organs, identifying the presence of specific chemicals such as those formed when the breast or brain undergoes ‘deregulation’ in the case of breast cancer or PTSD.
Other applications include measuring chronic pain or showing the damage caused by repeated concussion in contact sports.
“The breast cancer and PTSD projects are good examples of what TRI is about, getting innovation out there for public use,” Carolyn says.
“A big, multidisciplinary, international team has worked on this for a long time. The people who have made it possible, however, are Australian clinicians—some of the best on the planet—who have given their time free.”
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