Novel methods will enable imaging of metabolism and physiology of diseases and treatments non-invasively to aid clinical decision making. Observing physiology and metabolism will provide a more direct and therefore faster and accurate means to characterize diseases and responses to treatments when compared to conventional morphologic imaging.

Compared to a few morphologic imaging contrasts conventionally available in radiology, potentially hundreds of different metabolite levels could be imaged. The innovation therefore brings radiology into the world of biochemistry and visa versa, creating a new bridge between research groups in identifying what non-invasively detectable metabolites would be useful for aiding clinic.

In parallel, acceleration techniques in imaging are being investigated to maximize metabolic and physiologic information within a single scan session for each patient.

The following project groups will make the technology available worldwide and accessible for a wide range of (clinical) applications: The highfield group at UMCU focusses on precision imaging using MRI at high magnetic field strengths; The METAscan-concept sets out feasibility of metabolic imaging applied in Dutch clinical studies in collaboration with 5 UMC’s; The NICI project translates the technology to all highfield MRI vendors so to become available in Europe.


The UMC Utrecht coordinates the international consortium of the EU-funded NICI project, that aims to lay the foundations of a new area of research: the study of human biology using non-invasive chemistry imaging. The project unites the two research areas of metabolomics and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Through advancing MRI and discovering new MRI-visible biomarkers, it will be possible to develop a new non-invasive technology to dynamically map and understand biochemical processes in the human body.



The highfield group at the UMCU was initiated in Dec 2007 at the same time a high field (7 tesla) MRI system was installed. Studies have revealed and still revealing new information obtained non-invasively from patients, healthy volunteers and preclinical models all aiming to understand human biology at highest precision.


The METAscan-concept was initiated by a Dutch consortium and since Feb 2016 partially funded by NWO. The METAscan concept incorporates a quintuple tuned setup integrated in a whole body 7 tesla MRI system that facilitates imaging of the nuclei 1H, 19F, 31P, 23Na and 13C thereby enabling imaging of metabolism in the human body.