‘One of the world’s most advanced scanners’: What UB researchers need to know

Scanner delivery.

The new scanner was delivered to the CTRC in June; photos by Sandra Kicman.

Published August 2, 2023

“This is a major change for researchers and for patients, because it allows us to obtain more information in the same time on how diseases affect the body."
Robert Zivadinov.
"The quality of the data that we can obtain with this instrument is at the highest level."
Ferdinand Schweser.

The June delivery of a Philips MR 7700 to the Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) was called “a major advance in our translational research environment” by University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD. And for researchers at the University at Buffalo and Buffalo Translational Consortium, the impact of the 5-ton, 3-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner looks to be momentous.

As shared by UBNow, the scanner will enable investigators to make new 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 locally and nationwide.

Here, CTSI Center for Biomedical Imaging (CBI) Core Director Robert Zivadinov, MD, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Professor of Neurology and Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Department of Neurology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and CBI Technical Director Ferdinand Schweser, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering, and Radiology, Department of Neurology, Jacobs School, outline what UB researchers need to know about the scanner — and how it can transform their work.

  • It is one of the world’s most advanced scanners.

“The scanner will be a top technology for the next decade — it is one of the most advanced whole-body scanners in the world on a 3-Tesla platform,” Zivadinov says. “It is fully equipped, which allows us to study biological tissue properties with an unprecedented level of detail.”

The scanner uses artificial intelligence to both shorten scanning time and improve image quality. For example, Zivadinov says scanning that would have taken 15 minutes can now be done in two or three minutes. In addition, the device allows for synthetic MRI, a new way of scanning in which an hour of scanning can be accomplished in just five or six minutes.

“This is a major, major change for researchers and for patients, because it allows us to obtain more information in the same time on how diseases affect the body,” Zivadinov says.

  • Grant applications can be significantly stronger.

“The scanner will provide unprecedented resources to UB investigators to successfully compete for NIH, Department of Defense, and other types of research grants,” Zivadinov states.

According to Schweser, “the quality of the data that we can obtain with this instrument is at the highest level, better than what can be obtained in most other clinical research centers with previous generations of scanners. Images have less artifacts, measurements are more accurate, and we can probe tissue properties that are inaccessible at most other sites. This will elevate our grant proposals.”

  • The scanner has a maximum gradient strength of 65 millitesla.

“This power is particularly important for doing diffusion tensor imaging and functional MRI projects,” Zivadinov explains.

Schweser adds that “the scanner is equipped with a particularly powerful gradient coil, which is a component of the scanner that is responsible for probing different tissue components. The more powerful and robust the gradient system, the higher is the resolution images, the more crisp they are, and the more we can learn from them about the microscopic makeup of the body.” 

  • It allows for entirely new types of imaging.

The CBI works with researchers across multiple academic units at UB. This new scanner, which is located on the seventh floor of the CTRC, will provide even more opportunities for researchers.

“It will attract people who did not come to UB previously,” Zivadinov says. “[There are] many things we simply did not have the capability to do before now.”

“Examples include high-temporal resolution studies of brain activation to understand how the brain works, ultra-fine resolution of neuronal tracts that connect different brain regions structurally, measurement of peptides and high-resolution mapping of metabolites in the brain, and measurements of iron in the heart,” says Schweser. 

Zivadinov and Schweser add that researchers who are interested in learning more about the device — even those who may never have used imaging in their work — are encouraged to reach out using the CBI online request form. In addition, a full-day research event to showcase the equipment and its potential for groundbreaking research will be held at the CTRC on Thursday, September 7; watch UBNow and upcoming issues of Translational Spotlight for details on the event.