By Ellen Goldbaum
Published June 26, 2023
One of the most advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners in the world for research was delivered to UB on June 17.
The scanner will enable Western New York researchers to make groundbreaking discoveries in neurological disorders and neurodegenerative diseases ranging from multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s disease and post-concussion syndrome, with a special focus on how they affect underrepresented populations both locally and nationwide.
The MRI will also be available for a host of other applications, including cardiac MRI and scanning of bones and organs.
The Philips MR 7700 3Tesla (Tesla signifies the strength of its magnet) was hoisted by a crane seven stories high and carefully lowered into the Center for Biomedical Imaging in UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center.
A panel on the back side of the UB CTRC that operates like an overhead garage door was removed to allow the MRI to be placed inside the building. The panel was designed for the delivery of sophisticated biomedical equipment.
Staff from University Facilities Design and Construction directed the installation on Saturday. Preparation for the installation was provided by more than a dozen UB construction trades professionals, with oversight provided by staff from Facilities Design and Construction, and Campus Planning.
Imaging with MRI has become an essential tool in terms of the information it can provide to investigators studying some of the most devastating human diseases.
“While most people are familiar with MRIs that they have undergone as patients, these scanners are increasingly important as research tools that provide a critical window into soft tissue throughout the body, including the heart and the brain and the diseases that affect them,” explains Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine and director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
UB is the first institution in the country to dedicate such an advanced scanner solely to research; the first MR 7700 was installed late last year at Tufts University and is used for clinical applications.
“This scanner, among the most advanced available anywhere, puts UB in the forefront of translational imaging,” says Robert Zivadinov, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Biomedical Imaging (CBI) in the CTRC and SUNY Distinguished Professor of neurology and biomedical informatics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. “That’s a critical factor when we are trying to recruit researchers doing pioneering work, especially in neurodegenerative diseases. This MRI will help UB strengthen our existing imaging expertise while also acting as a major recruiting tool for researchers considering UB.”
The availability of this powerful MRI that will solely focus on research eliminates the issue that many research facilities have with clinical needs taking priority.
“Now, researchers who have had to use MRI equipment at other facilities can do all of their work at UB,” says Zivadinov. “With the additional capacity, we can further grow our user base, providing support to junior investigators, which in turn will help them do the studies that will result in National Institutes of Health funding.
“There isn’t a better 3T scanner for research in the country than what we have at UB,” he says.
Zivadinov adds that the CBI is prioritizing studies of underrepresented populations, including a project of his own that investigates how multiple sclerosis affects these groups in Western New York. Important questions that the new machine will be used to study in underrepresented groups include developing specific MRI biomarkers for diagnosing and managing neurological diseases in these populations.
Acquiring the new scanner, which has the lightest 3.0T magnet in the industry, is the result of an extensive, collaborative research agreement between UB and Philips. The scanner will become operational this summer, and a full-day research event to showcase the equipment and its potential for groundbreaking research will take place in the fall.