World's most powerful MRI set to go online soon

An MRI scanner powerful enough to be used on a 60-metric-ton armored tank will be going online in a little more than a year from now, according to the scanner's developer.

According to an article in the IEEE Spectrum, the scanner, known as INUMAC (Imaging of Neuro Disease Using High-Field MR and Contrastophores), will produce a field of 11.75 teslas, making it the world's more powerful scanner.

Some institutions, such as the University of Chicago and Maastricht University in the Neverlands, have installed scanners that can reach 9.4 teslas, but most hospital MRI scanners produce 1.5 to 3 teslas and offer spatial resolution of about one millimeter, which cover about 10,000 brain neurons, with a time resolution of about a second. INUMAC will be able to image an area of about 0.1 millimeter, covering 1,000 neurons, with a time resolution of about 1/10th of a second.

According to the director of the INUMAC project, Pierre Vedrin of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, with this type of resolution, not only could MRI be more effective at earlier detection of brain diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, but it would also allow for more precise functional imaging of the brain.

"You cannot really discriminate today what is happening inside your brain at the level of a few hundred neurons," Védrine writes in the article.

The scanner has been in development since 2006 and its total cost is expected to reach $270 million.

The inner diameter of the magnet will be 90 centimeters--wide enough for a human body, but the area of the machine where the field is precise enough to get maximum resolution is just 22 centimeters. This is big enough to allow for imaging of the brain, which is a priority since enlarging the high-resolution would necessitate the construction of an even more massive scanner.

According to Vedrine, the fully assembled machine should be delivered near the end of 2014 and should start producing images in early 2015.

As described here the INUMAC project is led by a French-German consortium that includes the University of Freiburg (Germany), Siemens Medical Solutions (Germany), Bruker BioSpin GmbH (Germany), the French Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA, France), Guerbet (France) and Alstom (France).

To learn more:
- see the article in the IEEE Spectrum
- read about the INUMAC project

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