Varian, Inc. unveils platform allowing MR systems of varying field strength

May 31, 2005

Varian, Inc. has developed an MR technologies platform that can be assembled into configurations supporting systems designed to research human, animal, and material applications. These different configurations, which range from MR scanners to nuclear MR spectrometers (NMR), operate at field strengths from 4.7T to 14.1T.

Varian, Inc. has developed an MR technologies platform that can be assembled into configurations supporting systems designed to research human, animal, and material applications. These different configurations, which range from MR scanners to nuclear MR spectrometers (NMR), operate at field strengths from 4.7T to 14.1T.

Imaging capabilities of conventional MR scanners are restricted by limited field strengths, but the Varian platform can be configured to support several high-end research applications. The cost of these systems will differ according to capability and application, with the most expensive running as much as $5 million, said Nataliya Voloshina, senior manager of product marketing for imaging. Units will begin routine shipping to customers in September.

The platform was introduced in May during the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine meeting. Varian, Inc., based in Palo Alto, CA, used the occasion to market its new product to academic centers and pharmaceutical companies. The configuration designed for NMR spectroscopy was announced in February.

Luminary sites for medically oriented MR configurations include the University of Minnesota Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, Centre d'Imagerie Biomedicale (CIMB) in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and McLean Hospital at Harvard University Medical School. The company does not anticipate commercializing the MR system for any use other than research.

The NMR system, which was developed to improve the study speed in complex, information-rich NMR experiments, will be deployed in clinical laboratories as part of a relationship with LipoScience. The company will still sell NMR into academia and research.

The flexibility in configurations supports the translation of complex biochemical and biological information to the clinical arena, according to the company. Customers using this technology can quickly develop and refine new techniques, Voloshina said, gathering information from sources ranging from tiny amounts of liquid to in vivo anatomy.

The key to this flexibility is the DirectDrive technology. This technology, initially developed for use in NMR, is composed of modular electronics and a DirectDigital receiver, which support the acquisition of data over a wide spectrum and enhanced dynamic range.

"DirectDrive leads to increased performance with certain pulses - many of the sequences that will benefit NMR spectroscopy and MR imaging," Voloshina said.

The Varian MRI System offers up to eight receiver and eight transmit channels as part of a scalable parallel architecture that permits the number of channels to be expanded. The end result is a system capable of providing increased information and higher throughput by using parallel imaging techniques or simultaneous detection of multiple objects.

The scanner is comparable in many ways to a conventional MRI system, she said, but its field strengths are considerably higher. Unlike mass-produced clinical MR scanners, this one is designed exclusively for research, and the Varian MRI System has stronger and faster gradient coils, which enhance resolution. The system also boasts an open software architecture, which enables researchers to design pulse sequences that fit specific imaging examinations, including those related to pharmaceutical research.

"One example is drug development, where you're observing the specific effects of drugs over time," Voloshina said.

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