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Houston seeks MR research center


MR scientists and research labs in the Houston area are developinga proposal to create a regional center for NMR research. If successful,the center will pool local MR research efforts in both spectroscopyand imaging applications, said Dr. Russ Huson,

MR scientists and research labs in the Houston area are developinga proposal to create a regional center for NMR research. If successful,the center will pool local MR research efforts in both spectroscopyand imaging applications, said Dr. Russ Huson, director of theTexas Accelerator Center at Houston Advanced Research Center.

More than 100 researchers attended a meeting to discuss theproposal last month. The day-long workshop was organized by HARC,Baylor College of Medicine and Bruker Instruments, a leading MRspectroscopy vendor.

Prof. Paul C. Lauterbur of the University of Illinois was thekeynote speaker at the workshop. Lauterbur runs a regional MRresearch project in Illinois, which was set up as a science andtechnology center funded by the National Science Foundation, Husonsaid.

When the Houston proposal is finalized, its supporters willfirst attempt to find private financing for the effort. The projectwill then be brought to the National Institutes of Health andNSF for continued funding, he said. Start-up and initial operatingcosts are estimated at about $7 million.

"Houston has the (requisite) population, universitiesand medical centers. We have everything here," Huson toldSCAN. "It is time for a regional center. By getting together,we can create one of the best research NMR facilities in the country."

Three areas of research attracted the most interest at theworkshop:

  • development of an extremely high-field 18.8-tesla spectrometerfor biomedicine and biochemical research;
  • whole-body imaging and spectroscopy research on 4-teslaand 1.5-tesla MR systems; and
  • animal research on smaller magnets.

"The 1.5-tesla system we could develop is what we considera forefront magnet," Huson said. It would have two importantfeatures: a short, 1.8-meter magnet and self-shielding.

HARC has already developed a 4-tesla 30-cm-bore prototype MRsystem (SCAN 3/16/88). The HARC self-shielded unit has a 5-gaussfringe field at one meter from the magnet, he said. HARC is buildinga second 4-tesla system for Lauterbur's center, Huson said.

Clinical MRI users are interested in short magnets to alleviatethe concerns of claustrophobic patients. The level of self-shieldingreached with HARC's high-field magnet does not exist in commercialsystems, he said.

"This (self-shielding) is very important. It will enablescanners to be placed next to each other and avoid problems with(metal) instrumentation," he said.

Although Bruker helped with the Houston workshop, four vendorsattended the meeting, not all of whom are active in medical imaging,he said. Companies will be able to support the research projectwith electronics and equipment such as consoles, Huson said.

One advantage of a regional research center is that it helpsbring together the various academic disciplines involved in MRdevelopment, such as chemists and physicists, he said.


  • GE received FDA market clearance last month for phased-arraycoils that have been under development since 1987. Used with the1.5-tesla Signa MRI system, the coils improve MRI signal-to-noiseperformance compared to the use of conventional body-coil or surface-coilimaging, said Ron Kokot, general manager of MR.

The phased-array coils have shown additional clinical utilitywhen used in conjunction with fast pulse sequences under developmentby GE, he said.

There is debate, however, about whether the additional costof the coils is worth the added utility. Siemens, for instance,maintains that similar MRI scanning utility for some applicationscan be achieved using the system body coil (SCAN 9/12/90).

  • Shimadzu has applied for FDA approval of a 1-tesla MRIsystem, the SMT 100X, and hopes to introduce the unit at the RadiologicalSociety of North America conference in December. The only ShimadzuMRI scanner on sale in the U.S. is a 0.5-tesla mid-field system.

  • Health Images of Atlanta received FDA approval late lastmonth for its HI Calibre upgrade for the HI Standard and TeslaconII MRI systems. Health Images, an MRI center company, servicesTeslacon scanners that were manufactured by Johnson & Johnson'sdefunct Technicare company and makes its own MRI system basedon J&J technology.

The upgrade includes features that improve image quality andreduce artifacts, said Louise Sutton, director of marketing andclinical applications. A multi-angle oblique capability allowsfor the selection of 32 separate angles within one scan.

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