A new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol to measure pancreatic volume in humans and large animals has been developed by scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The study was published in the February 13, 2013 issue of PLOS One. This is the first study to validate the use of MRI to measure pancreatic volume in humans and large animals. 

Historically, measuring pancreatic volume has been limited to either computed tomography (requiring exposure to radioactivity) or post-mortem autopsy. A validated MRI method would allow accurate measurements of the pancreas in living individuals with little risk. 

Doctors Edward and Lidia Szczepaniak and their research team from the Cedars-Sinai Biomedical Imaging Research Institute and Diabetes & Obesity Research Institute first validated the new MRI protocol on mini-pigs and then tested the protocol on humans. The MRI protocol takes a series of image slices covering the entire pancreas and image analysis software calculates the volume of each slice by summing the volumes of all the pancreatic slices. The researchers found that MRI calculated volume was almost identical to pancreatic volume measured post mortem.  

This MRI protocol was then tested on human patients. With support from the CTSI Clinical and Translational Research Center nurses, the Szczepaniaks and their team collected data to determine the correlation of pancreatic volume to measures of insulin resistance. Specifically, CTRC nurses performed oral glucose tolerance and frequently-sampled intravenous glucose tolerance tests on study participants.  

Researchers found that pancreatic volume measurement by MRI in humans was highly reproducible and consistent with previously reported pancreatic volume data. They also report that pancreatic volume was reduced with increasing age, body fat mass, visceral fat mass, and pancreatic triglyceride levels. However, pancreatic volume was not associated with glucose stimulated insulin secretion. 

Researchers hope that the new MRI protocol could be used in longitudinal studies to observe changes in the volume and structure of the pancreas in patients with conditions such as obesity or type 2 diabetes.

Further Reading

PLOS One: Measurement of Pancreatic Volume by Abdominal MRI: A Validation Study

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