Dr. Ellen Grant's lecture during the Virtual Education Series portion of the ISPD Conference 2020 discussed various MRI methods to assess function of the fetus and placenta. Developing MR methods allows us to understand function as many disorders begin to express themselves in utero. MR methods have potential to provide phenotypic information that can help with diagnosis and assess the impact of interventions.
First, Dr. Grant reviewed ways to use structural brain information, in particular gyral structure, cerebral mantle structure and machine learning approaches on structural fetal brain imaging, to infer brain function. Second, she reviewed some methods under development to quantify placental and fetal function. For placenta function, she talked about glucose CEST, T2*, T2* with maternal hyperoxia, relaxometry and ex vivo experiments. For fetal function, she described how leveraging machine learning quantifies complex 4D fetal motion as a measure of neurological health.
Many of these methods are still in their infancy, and, although challenging, the goal is to develop actionable metrics. It is important to understand that this type of development requires sophisticated teams of maternal fetal medicine physicians, pathologists, neurologists, radiologists, developmental biologists, physicists, engineers and computer scientists – all with respect for each other’s domain of expertise.