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Cheaper, more precise, MEG brain scanner under development in UK

by Gail Kalinoski, Contributing Reporter | March 25, 2016
Business Affairs European News MRI
A new MEG brain scanner is in development that is expected to be less expensive than current devices and give more precise measurements leading to new applications.

York Instruments Ltd., a United Kingdom-based company specializing in magnetic measurements and their health care applications, is producing the new device that can more precisely detect the tiny magnetic fields emitted by the brain. Called HyQUID, the magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain scanner was developed by researchers at Royal Holloway.

Physics professor Victor Petrashov at the U.K. research university designed the nano electronic device that will be a lower cost, higher performance machine. The HyQUID improves on the performance of the SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device), a very sensitive magnetic field detector, according to the researchers. One patent has already been granted and a second is being considered, according to a Royal Holloway press release.

“It has been surprising and immensely gratifying to see how quickly a device founded on fundamental, groundbreaking quantum physics research at Royal Holloway is likely to generate impact in such an important area of human health and well-being,” Petrashov said in a statement.

An article in Popular Science noted that tools tracking the brain now, fMRI and EEG, are quite sophisticated but the new technology being developed for the HyQUID should result in more precise tools that “could help researchers learn more information about the brain.” Popular Science wrote the MEG scanners won’t replace other types of brain scanning devices but could take different measurements, or in the case of fMRIs, “provide more direct measurements.”

MEG is described by York Instruments as a “noninvasive multi-modality imaging device that is excellent at delineating networks within the brain.” The company said it has been used clinically to treat epilepsy through surgery and to locate tumors. MEG has also been used as a research tool in the fields of autism, traumatic brain injury (TBI), neuropsychiatric disorders and functional disorders of the brain.

“The development of the HyQUID and its incorporation into this new medical imaging device has allowed a step change in the performance and availability of MEG technology,” Professor Gary Green, chief technology officer at York Instruments, said in the Royal Holloway release. “The integration of the key technologies has opened up a new global market for York Instruments with exciting new applications in neurology and psychiatry.”

The current MEG scanners cost at least $3.4 million each, according to Popular Science. Royal Holloway and York Instruments haven’t said how much the HyQUID could cost but the goal is to make them more affordable than the predecessors.

The Royal Holloway press release noted that York Instruments is backed financially by an investment from the United States, although the source was not identified.

York Instruments has already begun talking about the new MEG device at industry gatherings, including the American Clinical MEG Society (ACMEGS) 2016 Annual Conference held in February in Orlando, Fla.

“We are excited to present what we believe is a much improved and innovative new MEG platform to the global MEG community,” said Green. “York’s new MEG platform is a result of our commitment to providing the best available MEG technology to the clinical and research neuroscience community and as such, we have partnered with industry-leading institutions for the development of a best in class MEG device.”

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