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ISMRM Workshop on MRI of the Placenta 2018

The placenta mediates the transfer of respiratory gases, water, ions, and nutrients between mother and fetus, provides an immunological interface that allows the fetal allograft to survive, and secretes a vast array of hormones, cytokines, and signaling molecules to optimize pregnancy physiology. In this role, it influences not just the health of a woman and her fetus during pregnancy, but also the lifelong health of both. The importance of understanding the role of the placenta in health and disease led the NIH/NICHD to recently launch a major collaborative research effort, the Human Placenta Project. A major unmet clinical need is detailed non-invasive characterization of placental structure and function, including transport, perfusion, and tissue oxygenation. As a technique that employs non-ionizing radiation to image sufficiently large fields of view to encompass the entire organ, MRI is well suited for in vivo characterization of the placenta. While MRI has been used to study structure, function, and pathology in a wide variety of organs, it has not been applied extensively to the placenta.

This workshop will focus on MRI methods for characterizing placental structure, function, and pathology throughout gestation. Participants will include MR spectroscopists and imagers, clinicians, biomedical engineers, and basic scientists from a broad cross-section of scientific disciplines. There will be featured sessions dedicated to MR imaging technology and work on both animal model systems and clinical applications. Presentations will include invited talks, selected poster presentations, and a traditional poster session. These presentations will describe the current state-of-the-art in placental imaging and will highlight the unique challenges associated with imaging this organ. Sessions will be structured to promote interaction and facilitate discussion between workshop participants.

Target Audience

Researchers and clinicians interested in: placental development, structure, and function; the development of in vivo MR imaging methods for improved assessment of placental health; and the role of non-invasive imaging in understanding placental biology and affecting clinical practice.

Educational Objectives

Upon completion of this activity, participants should be able to:

  • Review anatomical and physiological properties of the placenta, their changes throughout gestation, and commonalities and differences in placenta structure/function between humans and animal model systems;
  • Summarize current clinical techniques for non-invasive monitoring of placental physiology and function;
  • Identify biological processes associated with placental function that can be characterized by MRI, including blood flow, metabolism, and transport;
  • Describe MR hardware, pulse-sequence design, and data analysis strategies for placental imaging;
  • Explain the factors governing safety for placental MRI studies; and
  • Discuss future directions for MR imaging of placenta.

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