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Trial Ready Small Vessel MRI Markers: Proof of Concept

Project description

Software helps apply advanced MRI markers to cerebral images from standard MRI devices

Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD), as its name suggests, is characterised by significant structural and functional abnormalities of the cerebral microcirculation. It is very common in older people and is a major contributor to stroke and brain haemorrhage. SVD is also a leading cause of cognitive impairment and dementia. It is currently difficult to visualise the pathology in vivo until damage is done, and there are no drugs available for prevention or treatment. SELMA has developed techniques to visualise these small vessels in powerful 7-Tesla (7T) MRI machines. It aims to transfer the 7T MRI pulse sequences to common 3T MRI scanners via automated analysis tools to support their ubiquitous use and develop effective SVD treatments through robust biomarkers.


Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is a hallmark of serious brain diseases such as acute stroke and dementia. It has a major impact on society, since it affects quality of life of many ageing individuals, and increasingly challenges the healthcare resources. Current image-based biomarkers do not reflect SVD itself, but rather macroscopic, irreversible brain damage, secondary to the abnormalities of the small vessels. This greatly hampers development of new drugs as clinical trials lack effective biomarkers directly reflecting SVD.
The SmallVesselMRI ERC project (337333), yielded 7T MRI methods with the potential to offer a paradigm shift in SVD research. We have developed new MRI measures that, for the first time, allow non-invasive assessment of the condition of the small vessels themselves, including blood flow velocity pulsation in small perforating vessels, which informs on vessel stiffness. The current proof-of-concept project ‘trial-ready Small vEsseL MRI MArkers (SELMA) aims to make these novel promising vascular parameters ready for use in phase II/III clinical trials. Our ambition is to bridge the gap between high end imaging research platforms and widespread clinical MRI, in order to enable drug-target engagement studies in clinical trials for newly developed drugs.
SELMA will:
1) Port the small-vessel 7T MRI pulse sequences to clinically ubiquitous 3T MRI scanners. 2) Develop a software tool that can provide robust, automated data analysis. 3) Determine the reproducibility of the SELMA biomarkers in a group of 35 healthy individuals with scan-rescan experiments. 4) Provide clinical proof of concept by a pilot study in 15 patients with SVD, measuring the vascular parameters before and after administration of a pharmaceutical agent. Using results of our proof of concept study, we will develop a business plan to approach the pharmaceutical industry to change the paradigm in drug development for SVD treatment.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 149 979,00
3584 CX Utrecht

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West-Nederland Utrecht Utrecht
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 149 979,00

Beneficiaries (1)