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InnerVision wins U.K. grantfor development of breast MRI


Company hopes to adapt low-field technologyBritish low-field MRI developer InnerVision MRI continues to benefitfrom the U.K. government's desire to nurture the development ofMRI technology in the country. The London firm has received agrant of

Company hopes to adapt low-field technology

British low-field MRI developer InnerVision MRI continues to benefitfrom the U.K. government's desire to nurture the development ofMRI technology in the country. The London firm has received agrant of £60,000, or about $100,000, to develop a dedicatedlow-field breast MRI scanner.

InnerVision made its debut at the Society of Magnetic Resonancemeeting in 1994 with a work-in-progress 0.14-tesla permanent magnetscanner designed for orthopedic, pediatric and interventionalapplications (SCAN 11/9/94). The magnet has a patient apertureof 85 x 20 centimeters and weighs less than 400 kilograms.

InnerVision has almost completed development of the product,which it has dubbed Niche, according to Martyn Paley, the company'smanaging director. The first production unit is being installedat Middlesex Hospital in London, where Paley is a senior lecturer.

Middlesex researchers using Niche will focus on joint imagingwith the scanner. The system's open architecture is ideal forsuch studies, according to Paley.

"One thing they want to look at is dynamic imaging ofjoints, as we have the capability to easily flex elbows, kneesand ankles," Paley said. "They want to investigate variable-anglescans and the use of stress to look at joints."

Another project at Middlesex will use Niche to detect earlysigns of osteoporosis by examining detailed bone structure andcorrelating those findings with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry(DEXA). In addition, investigators will employ Niche in interventionalprocedures such as biopsy needle guidance or the visualizationof fibers used to deliver laser energy to treat diseased tissue.Radio-frequency ablation using an MRI scanner's own RF coils isan application that is intriguing but is farther on the horizon,Paley said.

"An MR system has all the equipment required to deliverdirect RF thermal energy, as well as to image it," Paleysaid. "It is possible in principle to add a second computer-controlledchannel; then you potentially have both an imaging and a therapydevice. It is miles away from the marketplace, but it is a veryinteresting idea."

As Niche approaches commercialization, InnerVision has begunlining up partners to market the system. For European sales, InnerVisionhas established a relationship with MRI service and developmentorganization Neuromed of Castrop-Rauxel, Germany. InnerVisionhas also made contact with a U.S. firm for distribution in NorthAmerica. InnerVision plans to have a 510(k) application for Nicheon file with the Food and Drug Administration by the end of thisyear.

Breast MRI planned. InnerVision hopes to leverage its MRI technologyto develop other types of dedicated scanners, and breast imagingis at the top of the list. The company has developed a new magnetgeometry for a breast MRI scanner and hopes to build a prototypein the next 18 months, Paley said.

The scanner would match the new magnet design with InnerVision'sexisting electronics and software. The project offers some technicalchallenges, however.

"We are trying to push the uniform field even closer tothe center of the magnet," Paley said. "We already havea very short magnet, which has good access to the patient. Topush the uniform field further out puts strain on the tolerancesyou have to achieve to get the uniformity required."

The U.K. government is helping InnerVision solve the dilemmaby providing the company with a grant for £60,000. InnerVisionalso received grant money for development of Niche.

In addition to scanner design, InnerVision is involved witha consortium of European firms and universities conducting researchon the use of high-temperature superconducting coils. Such devices,which lower the temperature of coils to reduce resistance, offerthe hope of improving the signal-to-noise ratio of low-field MRIscanners (SCAN 5/4/94).

"It should be an interesting project, because severalEuropean companies and universities are pooling their resources,"Paley said. "Work we couldn't do individually we are doingtogether."

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