Case Western Reserve University and Microsoft are collaborating on quantum computing, with the initiative aiming to improve diagnoses made from MRI results.

The educational organization and technology giant have previously worked together on initiatives to use holograms for education in medical and other subject areas.

The focus of the new effort involves magnetic resonance fingerprinting (MRF), an innovative approach to imaging data that would enable faster and more accurate detection of developing diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or heart trouble.

MRF is a new approach to quantitative MRI, enabling rapid and simultaneous measurements of multiple tissue properties. With this approach, magnetic resonance system parameters are deliberately varied, and each combination of property values produces a unique “fingerprint” of a potential disease. Clinically, MRF has been applied to multiple organs.

CWRU professor Mark Griswold says that current research into the approach has been constrained by the sheer amount of data and the complexity of calculations required. That’s where Microsoft’s Quantum initiative comes in—quantum computers offer vastly more computing powers than existing computers. A calculation that would take current computers many years to complete would require only a few minutes in a quantum-based model.

“Quantum computing provides an opportunity to find the truly best way to scan patients,” Griswold says. “We are so excited to explore how far we can push these new quantum and quantum-inspired methods beyond traditional computer algorithms.”

“We see incredible possibilities to improve the quality of healthcare and medical research,” Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president of Microsoft Quantum, wrote in a company blog announcing the partnership.

Griswold and his team will work with Microsoft’s quantum computing experts to improve the practical ways that MRI machines acquire information during scans, and part of that process will be posing questions are too data-intensive for current computing technology to solve.

Griswold and his team further will call upon lessons learned in the previous collaboration, which originally involved the company’s not-yet-released Microsoft HoloLens device. Specifically, the teams plan to create a three-dimensional holographic model of the scan’s results—providing a vivid and more easily understood sense of the nature of the disease, or the healing of the disease.

The earlier Microsoft HoloLens project involved an effort of Cleveland Clinic and the university to explore potential applications of the holographic technology to teach anatomy to medical students. CWRU since has expanded upon that project on which the university and Cleveland Clinic teamed. Through a broader initiative known as the Interactive Commons, the university has used Microsoft HoloLens in support of undergraduate senior projects, teaching physics, and a mixed-reality museum app.

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