A new magnetic resonance imaging-based device, known as EchoMRI, can now accurately and precisely measure total body fat in piglets according to scientists who evaluated the new technology.

EchoMRI allows for measurements to be conducted in only a few minutes without anesthesia or sedation, is radiation-free, and does not require the subject to remain completely motionless. This can be advantageous to researchers to optimize feed utilization and help identify high-value hogs for breeding.

Using the principles of quantitative magnetic resonance, the new device was tested by Agricultural Research Service to measure not only total body fat, but lean tissue mass, free water mass and total body water in piglets..

Standard MRI systems are commonly used to scan and visualize tissue in humans. However, when used for body composition analysis, imaging systems are subject to substantial error rates caused by the interpretation of visual images using software that relies on population averages.

EchoMRI uses a new type of QMR methodology to obtain body composition results. Its measurement principle depends on the density of hydrogen nuclei and the physical state of the tissue.

Twenty-five piglets, each weighing between 3.5 pounds and 8 pounds, were screened live, anesthetized, and post-mortem, using a prototype EchoMRI device for infants. The piglets were also scanned using DXA and then subjected to chemical analysis.

After DXA scans, EchoMRI screenings, and chemical analyses were completed, EchoMRI was found to be a precise and accurate method suitable for measuring piglet whole body composition, total body fat, lean tissue mass, free water mass, and total body water. While these studies were conducted on piglets, EchoMRI may be transferable to market-weight pigs.

Source: USDA Agricultural Research Service