(Philadelphia, PA) - Researchers at the University
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine will soon be armed with
a new, cutting-edge technological tool in the field of radiology
— a 7 Tesla whole-body Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) system.
Penn’s Department of Radiology will become the first in the
Greater Philadelphia region to acquire one of these ultra high-field
scanners. Only a handful of them are in operation elsewhere in the
Ravinder Reddy, PhD, Professor of Radiology and
Science Director of the Metabolic Magnetic Resonance Research and
Computing Center (MMRRCC) at Penn, who is also the principal investigator
leading the effort in high-field imaging, explains why this is such
a powerful addition for research: “Since the inception of
MRI for clinical imaging and research over two decades ago, the
magnetic field strength of clinical imagers has increased 20-fold
from 0.15 Tesla initially to 3T currently, with each increase in
field strength yielding new diagnostic capabilities. Initial results
from a few laboratories suggest MRI at even higher fields holds
great promise to provide insight into structure, function and physiology
in humans not obtainable at lower fields. An ultra high-field magnet
will further improve sensitivity, speed, and image resolution.”
Reddy adds, “This system will also pave the way to image
other nuclei in the human body such as sodium (23Na),
phosphorus (31P), oxygen (17O) and carbon (13C). Imaging these nuclei
may provide disease-specific molecular and functional information
unobtainable on conventional MRIs. With further technique development,
we can detect disease in a way never seen before."
The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a part of the
National Institutes of Health (NIH), just announced it is awarding
Penn a High-End Instrumentation grant of $2 million toward the purchase
of the whole-body 7T MRI system. The NCRR grants are used to fund
cutting-edge equipment required to advance biomedical research and
increase knowledge of the underlying causes of human disease.
This new system at Penn will be utilized primarily by four centers:
the MMRRCC, the Center for Functional Neuroimaging (CfN), the Center
for Molecular Imaging (CEMI), and the Laboratory for Structural
NMR Imaging (LSNI). Biomedical imaging research in these four laboratories
covers a wide range of applications and innovative methodologies
involving functional brain imaging for basic and clinical neuroscience,
the study of neurodegenerative and metabolic disorders, molecular
imaging for cancer detection and treatment monitoring, novel approaches
to cardiovascular disease and tissue perfusion, arthritis and osteoporosis.
This ultra high-field magnet facility will also serve as open resource
for the entire research community at Penn and other neighboring
institutions. Details on how to access this magnet system will be
made available once the facility has become operational.
Reddy comments, “The higher the field strength, the better
the quality of the image, helping radiologists to improve diagnostic
accuracy and detect incipient disease.”
The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has already assigned
a space for the new 7T system on its campus; it will be housed in
the lower level of the Stellar-Chance Laboratories. Reddy will serve
as the director of the high-field center. Reddy hopes to order the
scanner by the end of 2006, then prepare the site by installing
a magnetic shield, and finally installing the magnet by mid-2007.
The project will be funded through a combination of internal and
external sources including the NCRR grant.
“We’re moving technology forward with our expertise
and knowledge here at Penn. This new high-field system will be used
for research and development and eventually clinical applications,”
said Nick Bryan, MD, PhD, Chair of Radiology at
Penn, “We have a strategic plan for this. A multi-disciplinary
team of researchers at Penn will use this cutting-edge technology.
We view this is an investment in our radiological future.”
Penn has a rich history of being a pioneering institution in the
field of radiology, specifically in MR technology development and
translational research for biomedical applications. The Hospital
of the University of Pennsylvania was the first hospital
in the nation to get and use an MRI back in 1984.
PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise
dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical
research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists
of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in
1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of
Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt
of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News &
World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical
schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the
School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education
and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and
leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three
hospitals, all of which have received numerous national patient-care
honors [Hospital of theUniversity of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania
Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical
Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network;
two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.