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Gadolinium, a contrast agent used to improve MRI imaging, has been shining a light on brain diseases and damage for years, but now scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) believe it could reveal even more. With the chance discovery of the transparent chemical leaking into and then lighting up in the eyes of stroke patient MRI scans, they believe the chemical could quickly reveal the severity of a stroke without the need for a brain scan.

Injected into the blood stream, gadolinium is regularly given to stroke patients for MRI scans, despite concerns that residue was remaining in the brain after scans. It increases the contrast between different structures and fluids, making images clearer and problems easier to diagnose. When a stroke patient has damaged their blood-brain barrier, a membrane which controls which substances can enter the brain from the blood stream, gadolinium leaks into the brain, highlighting the location of brain damage.

In this new study, which performed MRI scans on 167 stroke patients and compared them at different time frames, scientists discovered that gadolinium was also leaking into the eyes.

“It raises the question of whether there is something we can observe in the eye that would help clinicians evaluate the severity of a stroke and guide us on how best to help patients,” says Richard Leigh, M.D., the senior author of the paper.



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