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CTRC Imaging Center devoted exclusively to research

John Canty with GE Discovery PET-CT 690 scanner

John Canty poses with a GE Discovery PET-CT 690 scanner, one of four new state-of-the-art scanners in the CTRC Imaging Center. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

By ELLEN GOLDBAUM

Published July 11, 2013

UB biomedical researchers now have round-the-clock access to the most advanced imaging scanners available as a result of four major acquisitions in the new imaging facility in UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC).

The new facility is Western New York’s first biomedical imaging facility dedicated exclusively to research.

“The new CTRC Imaging Center is a huge step forward for clinical research in Buffalo,” says Timothy F. Murphy, CTRC director, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at UB and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It is an excellent resource for investigators at UB and Roswell Park, and a powerful tool allowing researchers in the Buffalo Translational Consortium to perform state-of-the-art imaging studies.

“It’s also a huge recruiting tool,” he adds. “State-of-the-art imaging has become an increasingly important element of translational research. Modern imaging techniques now provide information that previously could only be obtained from biopsies or autopsies. Many leading translational researchers have made imaging a critical aspect of their research.”

John Canty, Albert and Elizabeth Rekate Professor of Medicine, has been appointed director of the CTRC Imaging Center, located in the CTRC on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC). Robert Zivadinov, UB professor of neurology and director of the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center, has been named the center’s director of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Among the new center’s capabilities are:

  • 9.4 Tesla Bruker MRI (Tesla indicates the strength of the magnetic field it generates)
  • 3 Tesla Toshiba MRI
  • Positron emission tomography/computing tomography (PET/CT)
  • CT

Now, researchers at UB and partner institutions on the BNMC will have a total of four new state-of-the-art scanners at their disposal that are devoted exclusively to clinical and preclinical research.

Researchers in Buffalo whose work involved imaging had been limited to using clinical scanners during off hours when not needed for patient care. That’s the situation with many facilities around the country, says Canty.

“The most common model is to take a clinical scanner, whether it’s MRI or PET/CT, and devote some portion of time to investigation,” he says. “The problem is that pressing clinical demands often end up putting research on the back burner.

“What we’ve done here at the CTRC is to make clinical and translational research imaging the sole priority for this facility so there’s no competition between clinical demands and research,” he continues. “In addition, the new CTRC Imaging Center puts multiple modalities in one area, which allows researchers to look at the best modality to advance the science instead of worrying about a specific imaging platform.”

Among the initial users of the new facility will be researchers at the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center, a division of the UB Department of Neurology and a leader in developing clinical applications for MRI. BNAC researchers led by Zivadinov will be using the new imaging center to examine neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, as well as the aging process.

“The research of specific MRI biomarkers for disease diagnosis, monitoring and management will be especially important in attracting researchers here from outside Western New York,” says Zivadinov. “In addition, industry will be interested in the determination of differential clinical applications of MRI, including studies on its cost effectiveness and utility in predicting or improving patient outcomes.”

Zivadinov adds that the center’s most powerful new scanner, the 9.4 Tesla MRI, is one of the first in the country equipped with a cryoprobe, a special device that can increase scanning resolution by two to three times—particularly important for detailed tissue-sample imaging.

When the scanner was installed in the center in April, its 5.5-ton magnet had to be lifted by crane onto the 7th floor of the CTRC.

Funding for the imager was provided by the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and was facilitated through the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute.

The center’s GE Discovery PET-CT 690 scanner is operational, supported by a National Institutes of Health Shared Instrumentation grant, with Canty as principal investigator. The Toshiba Aquilon 320-slice CT and a Toshiba Vantage Titan 3 Tesla MRI scanner are expected to be installed through a research agreement with Toshiba later this year.