research news

UB’s new MRI scanner launches ‘new era in biomedical imaging’

MR 7700.

A symposium will take place on Sept. 7 to inform UB researchers and others throughout Western New York about the imaging capabilities of UB's new Philips MR 7700 scanner — one of the most powerful magnetic resonance imaging scanners available anywhere. Photo: Courtesy of Philips North America


Published September 1, 2023

Venu Govindaraju.
“This state-of-the-art research scanner puts UB in the forefront of this exciting and rapidly progressing field. ”
Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development

Researchers at UB and throughout Western New York are invited to attend a daylong imaging research symposium on Sept. 7 to learn about an extraordinary new research tool at UB.

The massive 5.5-ton Philips MR 7700 that was installed in June in the Center for Biomedical Imaging (CBI) in UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) is now operational.

The purpose of the symposium is to inform researchers at UB and beyond about the imaging capabilities of the new 3 Tesla scanner (Tesla signifies the strength of the magnet) — one of the most powerful , AI-enabled, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners available anywhere — and make UB researchers aware of how imaging can be applied to their research.

A primary goal is to grow the user base, providing support to investigators that will help them do the imaging studies that eventually result in external funding and, ultimately, advance human health. The symposium will be valuable for researchers who are new to imaging and also to those who currently use imaging in their work.

The symposium will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the fifth floor of the CTRC, 875 Ellicott St., Buffalo.

The complete agenda and information on registration are available online.

The event’s keynote speaker is John C. Gore, Hertha Ramsey Cress University Professor and director, Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science. He will speak (remotely) on “Development and Applications of Quantitative Imaging Biomarkers.”

Other speakers include:

  • Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development.
  • Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
  • Robert Zivadinov, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Neurology, Jacobs School, and director of the CBI.
  • Tim Murphy, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Jacobs School and director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).
  • Tammie Rupnik, head of imaging, Philips North America.
  • Alan Huang, MR market leader, Philips North America.

The scanner will allow researchers across UB to achieve breakthroughs in understanding and treating the most complex human diseases, from multiple sclerosis to Alzheimer’s disease to traumatic brain injury and heart disease.

“This state-of-the-art research scanner puts UB in the forefront of this exciting and rapidly progressing field,” says Govindaraju. “It is a key piece of the research infrastructure necessary for a Top 25 public research institution and will be a powerful tool for recruiting researchers doing pioneering work, especially in neurodegenerative diseases.”

Exclusively serving researchers

Unlike many MRI scanners that serve both research and clinical needs, the UB scanner is for research only.

“By dedicating this scanner exclusively to research, the university is making a clear statement to the global academic community, as well as to UB researchers, about its long-range commitment to using imaging technology to achieve innovative clinical results,” Brashear explains. “With this scanner on our campus, we are strongly encouraging researchers to come learn how they, too, can utilize imaging science to advance and enrich their work.”

Murphy, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research in the Jacobs School, says the scanner “launches a new era in biomedical imaging at UB.”

“Imaging is an increasingly powerful translational research tool that is becoming a key ingredient in the successful grant applications and high-impact publications that are dramatically improving treatments and discoveries about human disease,” he says.

Zivadinov adds: “The sheer power of this scanner will allow local researchers to participate in and envision more ambitious projects, such as the international effort now underway to map the human connectome — the mapping of all the connections in the human brain.”

UB’s acquisition of the scanner is the result of an extensive, collaborative research agreement between UB and Philips.

Because the new scanner is far more powerful than previous models, it is capable of advanced techniques, such as functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging, that can precisely target specific biological functions especially in the brain. It uses artificial intelligence and synthetic MRI, which allows researchers to obtain in a few minutes the same amount of information that conventional scanning would take two hours to produce.

“The scanner is equipped with a platform for the global exchange of research with other sites and with Philips, allowing UB researchers access to cutting-edge scanning tools that are not yet widely available,” says Ferdinand Schweser, associate professor of neurology in the Jacobs School and technical director of the CBI. 

Studies to focus on disparities

A key focus of the CBI is to utilize the new scanner in studies that address disparities in underserved or underrepresented populations, as well as rare diseases in the Western New York region.

Through a program that allows collection of pilot study data at lower cost to the investigator, the CBI is encouraging submission of studies that address health disparities.

Zivadinov is directing a project that investigates how multiple sclerosis affects underrepresented groups in Western New York. Goals of the study include developing specific MRI biomarkers for diagnosing and managing neurological diseases in these groups.

A biobank that can serve as a reference for all UB investigators working on studies addressing health disparities is also in the planning stages.