UMC Utrecht – NICI


The aim of the NICI project is to lay the foundations for a new field of research: the study of human biology via the use of non-invasive chemistry imaging. To this end, NICI aims to combine two research areas: metabolomics and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Metabolomics investigates body functions by measuring metabolites, whereas MRI is able to deliver 3D images of the body. With improved MRI, metabolic biomarkers can be detected. Moreover, with the discovery of new MRI-visible biomarkers, a non-invasive technology can be developed for the dynamic mapping of biochemical processes throughout the human body.

This innovative non-invasive technology for displaying biochemical processes in the human body opens a new framework for understanding human biology, diseases, and their treatment. Currently, the exact mechanisms of diseases remain largely unknown and measuring specific metabolites is a challenge.

The intended breakthroughs are the development of:

  • a methodology for the discovery of distinctive biomarkers; and
  • a technological platform for the biochemical imaging of the whole human body.

This project brings together physicists, biologists, chemists, and clinicians. The research will focus on the discovery of MRI-visible biomarkers using 3D organoids as models for human organs. In addition, the project will develop a measurement platform integrated with 7T MRI scanners and associated data acquisition approaches to adapt these MRI scanners to 3D biochemical imaging systems. NICI validates the dynamic 3D approach to chemical imaging and its predictive and prognostic value by investigating a stratification strategy for patients with hepatic metastases of gastrointestinal cancer. This is one of many possible applications.


UMCU Utrecht; also the project coordinator


Horizon 2020 – FET Open Research and Innovation Action


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