Chuck Dumoulin, PhD.

Chuck Dumoulin, PhD

Someday, ridding ourselves of risky excess fat might be as simple as zapping it with ultrasound.

Using MRI-guided, high-intensity focused ultrasound (MR-HIFU), researchers in the Imaging Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s removed visceral fat tissue from overweight rats without a knife cut or needle puncture. Visceral fat collects around organs such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas, and contributes to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other diseases.

“The unique abilities of MR-HIFU and the critical role of visceral fat in obesity and disease suggest that MR-HIFU could be used to reduce the metabolic activity of fat in people who are overweight,” says Chuck Dumoulin, PhD, Director of the Imaging Research Center and senior author of a study published online Aug. 18, 2015, Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

On average, the rats lost 7.5 percent of their body weight after treatment, despite having only 1.5 percent of visceral fat removed. The researchers believe MR-HIFU might not only combat medical complications of obesity, but also serve as a safe and non-invasive alternative to bariatric surgery.