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MRI-based ID of the Vasculature across the Heart-Brain Axis

Project description

Insight into heart-brain microvasculature using MRI

The smallest blood vessels in our body – also known collectively as the microvasculature – facilitate blood perfusion and interaction with tissues, delivering oxygen and nutrients and removing carbon dioxide. Currently, the only way to comprehensively assess microvasculature physiology is through histology, which requires invasive biopsy. Funded by the European Research Council, the VascularID project aims to develop a technique based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain functional and structural information on the microvasculature. Researchers will focus on the heart and brain to elucidate the microvasculature impairment associated with various heart and neural conditions.


Microvascular impairment is a hallmark of many of today’s most burdening diseases, including forms of ischemic heart disease, stroke, and dementia. It is also the most promising candidate to explain the link between cardiovascular and brain disease (so-called heart-brain axis). However, only histology provides comprehensive assessment of the microvasculature, and is rarely available in vivo as it requires invasive biopsy. The lack of early, non-invasive markers limits our pathophysiological understanding and crucially affects treatment success, as preventive intervention is the only successful clinical management strategy available.

With a major leap in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) physics, I will address this need and develop VascularID, a fully non-invasive toolset for the quantitative assessment of cardiac and cerebral microvasculature. This non-invasive biopsy exploits microscopic magnetic fields around the vessels to obtain structural information about the microvasculature. It is contrast-free and resilient against field inhomogeneities and can, for the first time, be used in both the heart and the brain. Combined with a new generation of non-contrast perfusion MRI, VascularID will provide comprehensive functional and structural information.

My approach will first be validated in a micro-printed 3D model of the vasculature. In vivo feasibility will be demonstrated in an animal model. Proof-of-principle studies with VascularID in a cohort of patients suffering from heart disease and a cohort of patients with cerebral small vessel disease will demonstrate the clinical feasibility.

I will develop, validate, and disseminate VascularID for research and clinical use to enable groundbreaking insights into the smallest blood vessels. These insights are perfectly poised to provide the missing key to the vascular underpinnings of diseases that form the major burden to our health care system in the years to come.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 852 430,00
2628 CN Delft

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West-Nederland Zuid-Holland Delft en Westland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 852 430,00

Beneficiaries (1)