Installers ready the 7T MRI to be lowered into the basement of the Elliman Clinical Research Building.
The imager is lowered into a shaft dug next to the Elliman Building.
The 7T MRI, which weighs six tons, is positioned in a new lab designed to house the device.
The 7T ClinScan MRI was installed March 31 in the Elliman Clinical Research Building on the School of Medicine campus. Bruce Berkowitz, Ph.D., professor and director of the Small Animal MRI Facility, estimated it would be about three months before research can be conducted on the new machine regularly.
The $2 million scanner will be one of the first of its kind with the new Siemens interface, said Mark Haacke, Ph.D., director of the MR Research Facility and a professor of Radiology. Both Dr. Haacke and Dr. Berkowitz are responsible for the successful shared instrumentation grant that brought this piece of equipment to Wayne State University.
“There are only four or five machines in the world like this. This machine comes with Siemens software and interface,” said Dr. Haacke. “Wayne State University has collaborated with Siemens for a long time, and we have a long history and excellent reputation for development of new technology and new uses in this field.”
The new 7T, Dr. Haacke said, should have researchers across the Wayne State University campus champing at the bit to schedule time at the MR Research Facility.
“This gives us much more capability and flexibility,” he said. “We have a lot of people using the 4.7T now, and we can switch some of them over to the 7T for higher resolution and better sequencing.”
The 7T MRI, according to Siemens, was developed in collaboration with Bruker Biospin MRI Inc. The imager and software provide the potential for “microscopic spatial resolution visualizing anatomy previously unseen.” The company said the device allows observation and analysis of tissue metabolism and function.
While the 7T is for animals only, it offers myriad opportunities for translational research that will benefit humans. “This will speed up research, allow for more in-depth research, and translate beautifully” into work that develops into bedside treatment, Dr. Haacke said.
“With the higher field strength you get better signal-to-noise, which can be translated into higher resolution imaging, and the results come faster,” he added. “We can cut the scanning time and get higher productivity. We want to get researchers campus-wide using the 7T and 4.7T as much as possible. We are looking forward to helping researchers. We really want to support their work.”
The 7T is much stronger than typical MRI scanners used to help diagnose human patients. Most patients are examined with a 1.5T or 3T system. The strength of the 7T imager allows researchers to peer even further into the expanding microscopic universes that will one day unlock significant findings used to treat neurological diseases and a host of other conditions.
Dr. Berkowitz, who is also a member of the Departments of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and Ophthalmology, said the new imager facilitates translating research projects between it and the existing Siemens machines in the MR Research Facility. Adding a second animal MRI system will “substantially improve access and options” for researchers and the 7T allows further exploration of research previously conducted using the 4.7T imager.
Dr. Berkowitz said researchers who will be the first to utilize the new technology are those working on neuroscience projects that have pressing imaging needs that exceed those of the current 4.7T imager.
Some departments currently using the center’s existing 4.7T system include Anatomy and Cell Biology, Ophthalmology, Cancer, Radiology and Biomedical Engineering. Current demand has time on the 4.7T “tightly booked,” Dr. Berkowitz said, and having another animal system will allow more access to each machine. “The 7T has significant improvement in electronics and software, and will greatly improve existing image quality,” said Dr. Berkowitz. “Thus, new applications, such as mouse cardiac studies, are possible on the 7T.”
Some of the studies under way involving animal models include the study of traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, diabetic retinopathy, retinopathy of prematurity, cancer and brain function itself. The ability to measure tissue structure and function at the level of microns, and assess metabolites in the body is the cornerstone of improving understanding and treatment efficacy for disease.