GE MRIs to offer Swedish company's body composition measurement service

Visualization and quantification of visceral adipose fat tissue in men with equivalent BMIs--Courtesy of AMRA

GE Healthcare ($GE) will offer cloud-based body composition measurement software on its MRI scanners under a co-marketing agreement with Sweden's Advanced MR Analytics AB (AMRA) unveiled at the European Congress of Radiology in Vienna.

CE-marked at the beginning of the year, the so-called AMRA Profiler quantifies two types of fat tissue and thigh muscle volume on the basis of a 6-minute MRI scan. AMRA says the data can be used to determine patient's health status and metabolic disease risk better than conventional metrics like Body Mass Index (BMI).

For example, differentiating between visceral adipose fat tissue and subcutaneous adipose fat tissue is useful because the latter has some protective benefits, while the former is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to the company website.

AMRA is developing a new metric to be used alongside BMI, dubbed Body Composition Profile, with the aim of giving patients an idea of their health and disease risk. The company boasts a partnership with Pfizer ($PFE) to study the correlation between fat and muscle distribution in the body and metabolic health, such as risk factors obesity and diabetes.

Such knowledge could be used to stratify patients in drug and device clinical trials, the company says.

"This co-marketing agreement marks an important milestone in our relationship with AMRA and we are proud to be able deliver access to AMRA cloud based body composition analysis to GE customers," said Mark Stoesz, global product marketing manager at GE Healthcare, in a statement. "In light of GE Healthcare's strong heritage in MRI technology, this collaboration is a welcome opportunity to combine our expertise and deliver new value to physicians and their patients."

The move is another plank in GE's strategy of offering partners' related services in order to gain a competitive advantage over fellow imaging bigwigs Siemens and Philips Healthcare ($PHG). Like other devices, MRI scanners are becoming platforms for other technology, software and services.

Fierce 15 company CorTech Labs also has an agreement with GE to co-market its software for quantifying substructures in the brain to diagnose Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury using MRI images. As a result of a collaboration with startup Arterys, GE is also preparing to launch the MRI analysis system ViosWorks for noninvasive visualization and quantification of cardiac blood flow to diagnose cardiovascular disease.

The development are the latest in a plethora of ongoing efforts to glean additional information from medical images. For instance, Israeli startup MedyMatch seeks to hasten and improve stroke diagnosis using machine learning software that analyzes CT scans. IBM's Watson Health is in on the game as well. It recently spent $1 billion to get its hand on a medical image management platform used at more than 7,500 U.S. hospitals by acquiring Merge Healthcare.

- read the release