Mapping In-Utero Brain Development in 3D

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This is pretty incredible! A hospital in London is the first in the world to scan unborn babies using high quality magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):

A team led by Prof Mary Rutherford, a neonatal neuroradiologist at Hammersmith Hospital, is using the images to find out how foetus’ brains develop in the womb.

This has been difficult to study before as unborn babies wiggle in the mother’s tummy. MR scans require a person to be still as ordered slices are taken continuously through the body.

To solve this problem the team takes many many images, in various orientations, and uses a computer program to re-order them and form a 3D image.

See story (with video)

Doctors expect this technology to lead to better diagnoses of brain disorders, including malformations, growth problems or injuries that can lead to cerebral palsy and sometimes autism. Said Dr. Rutherford:

“This information will help obstetricians to decide whether a baby is likely to have severe problems with development or whether to deliver a baby sooner as brain growth may be better outside the womb,”

Let’s hope this technology really does help doctors try to save the lives of these unborn children and not destroy them as is often the case with poor prenatal diagnoses.

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