World's most powerful MRI ready to scan human brain

Dec 04, 2007

The world's most powerful medical magnetic resonance imaging machine, the 9.4 Tesla at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has successfully completed safety trials and may soon offer physicians a real-time view of biological processes in the human brain.

The safety study was published in the November Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging in an issue focused on MRI safety.

Researchers and physicians hope that the 9.4T will usher in a new era of brain imaging in which they will be able to observe metabolic processes and customize health care.

Oncologists, for example, may one day be able to tailor radiation therapy based on a brain tumor's real-time response to treatment. Currently, physicians often must wait weeks to see if a tumor is shrinking in response to therapy. With the 9.4T, it will be possible to see if individual cells within the tumor are dying long before the tumor has begun to shrink.

The 9.4T magnet has a field strength more than three times that of state-of-the-art clinical units. UIC's 9.4T is the first such device large enough to scan the head and visualize the human brain.

"Because the more powerful magnet allows us to visualize different types of molecules, we are seeing activity in the brain along a completely different dimension," said Dr. Keith Thulborn, director of UIC's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research.

Current MRI visualizes water molecules to track biochemical processes. By visualizing the sodium ions involved in those processes instead, the 9.4T permits researchers to directly follow one of the most important energy-consuming processes in the cellular machinery in the brain.

The strength of magnetic resonance scanners has increased from less than 0.5T up to the first 8T in 1998. As human safety data became available, the FDA limits were revised upwards accordingly -- to the current level of 8T in 2003.

In this safety trial, 25 healthy volunteers -- 12 men and 13 women -- were exposed, in random order, to the 9.4T scanner, in which they were exposed to a static magnetic field and to sodium imaging, and to a mock scanner with no magnetic field. An audio recording simulated the sound of a real scanner.

Vital signs and cognitive ability were measured in all volunteers before and after the sodium imaging at 9.4T and the mock scanning. There were no significant changes in heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate or other vital signs when volunteers were exposed to either the magnetic field or the imaging. There were no significant differences in the cognitive testing of volunteers following mock vs. real scanning.

The most frequently reported discomfort was lightheadedness or vertigo when being moved into the magnetic field. A few subjects reported a metallic taste, nausea, or a visual effect of seeing sparks. The sensations went away once they were stationary in the magnetic field.

The researchers concluded that exposure to a 9.4T static magnetic field does not present a safety concern.

With the FDA-required safety trials completed, UIC researchers will begin to put the 9.4T to use.

"This initial evaluation of safety is only the first step towards realizing metabolic imaging of the human brain," Thulborn said. "We are now moving towards patient studies of sodium imaging and towards safety testing for oxygen and phosphorus imaging in humans.

"These early metabolic signatures of cellular health have great potential to advance detection and monitoring of diseases in the earliest stages, when treatment can produce the greatest benefit."

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

Explore further: Twitter increasingly used to share urological meeting info

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Soccer's key role in helping migrants to adjust

8 minutes ago

New research from the University of Adelaide has for the first time detailed the important role the sport of soccer has played in helping migrants to adjust to their new lives in Australia.

Researchers jailbreak iOS 7.1.2

24 minutes ago

Security researchers at the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) have discovered a way to jailbreak current generation Apple iOS devices (e.g., iPhones and iPads) running the latest iOS software.

Tracking giant kelp from space

28 minutes ago

Citizen scientists worldwide are invited to take part in marine ecology research, and they won't have to get their feet wet to do it. The Floating Forests project, an initiative spearheaded by scientists ...

How to secure the cloud

38 minutes ago

For many of us, the primary reason we use "the cloud" is for storage—whether it's storing email through services like Gmail and Yahoo!, photos on Flickr, or personal documents on Dropbox. Many organizations ...

Recommended for you

Exploring 3-D printing to make organs for transplants

Jul 30, 2014

Printing whole new organs for transplants sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the real-life budding technology could one day make actual kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs for patients ...

High frequency of potential entrapment gaps in hospital beds

Jul 30, 2014

A survey of beds within a large teaching hospital in Ireland has shown than many of them did not comply with dimensional standards put in place to minimise the risk of entrapment. The report, published online in the journal ...

Key element of CPR missing from guidelines

Jul 29, 2014

Removing the head tilt/chin lift component of rescue breaths from the latest cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidelines could be a mistake, according to Queen's University professor Anthony Ho.

Burnout impacts transplant surgeons (w/ Video)

Jul 28, 2014

Despite saving thousands of lives yearly, nearly half of organ transplant surgeons report a low sense of personal accomplishment and 40% feel emotionally exhausted, according to a new national study on transplant surgeon ...

User comments : 0