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: Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tropical Storm Dolly forms, threatens Mexico

24 minutes ago

Tropical Storm Dolly formed off Mexico's northeastern coast on Tuesday and headed toward landfall in Tamaulipas state, threatening to spark floods and mudslides, forecasters said.

Halliburton pays $1.1 bn for Gulf of Mexico BP spill

34 minutes ago

Oil services company Halliburton said Tuesday it would pay a $1.1 billion settlement over its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig blowout that led to the United States' most disastrous oil spill.

Scientists make diseased cells synthesize their own drug

39 minutes ago

In a new study that could ultimately lead to many new medicines, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have adapted a chemical approach to turn diseased cells into unique manufacturing ...

Modern population boom traced to pre-industrial roots

41 minutes ago

The foundation of the human population explosion, commonly attributed to a sudden surge in industrialization and public health during the 18th and 19th centuries, was actually laid as far back as 2,000 years ...

Researcher looks at the future of higher education

43 minutes ago

Most forecasts about the future of higher education have focused on how the institutions themselves will be affected – including the possibility of less demand for classes on campus and fewer tenured faculty members as ...

Recommended for you

Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

50 minutes ago

Each year thousands of students enroll in medical schools across the country. But just how many feel they've been disrespected, publicly humiliated, ridiculed or even harassed by their superiors at some point during their ...

Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

9 hours ago

When the young Thai woman saw an online ad seeking surrogate mothers, it seemed like a life-altering deal: $10,000 to help a foreign couple that wanted a child but couldn't conceive.

Nurses go on strike in Ebola-hit Liberia

9 hours ago

Nurses at Liberia's largest hospital went on strike on Monday, demanding better pay and equipment to protect them against a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed hundreds in the west African nation.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge arrives in North Korea

Aug 31, 2014

It's pretty hard to find a novel way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, but two-time Grammy-winning rapper Pras Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, has done it—getting his dousing in the center ...

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

User comments : 0