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World's first 10.5-Tesla human MR scan performed at University of Minnesota

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | March 15, 2018
MRI
The Siemens Healthineers 10.5-Tesla MR at the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research is helping researchers push the boundaries of medical imaging.

In late February they performed a first-ever full scan of the human body.

The 10.5-Tesla MR scanner has a 110-ton magnet and “promises to produce scans at a finer level of detail, bringing new capabilities” to researchers, the center said in a statement.
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Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., director of CMRR and professor of medicine, neurosciences and radiology at the university’s medical school, called the scans “a gratifying milestone after years of preparation.”

“It feels great,” Ugurbil said. “We are all excited about it. It’s been a long road leading up to this point.”

The 10.5-Tesla magnet project began in 2008, after CMRR researchers got an $8 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) construction grant. The monster magnet was built in England, and after crossing the Atlantic required a specialized trailer to bring it to CMRR in the Twin Cities.



After its arrival the team devoted years to readying the magnet for operations, cooling the conductors below liquid helium temperature (2.6 Kelvin or about -455 degrees Fahrenheit/-270 degrees Celsius), and tuning its electronics. Then came animal studies to make sure it would be safe for people.

The hope is that this massive machine will offer fresh insight into a range of illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

In 2017, the CMRR group was awarded a five-year, $9.7 million NIH Brain Initiative grant in order to take brain imaging to the next level with the system. Research into the basic functions of the brain, from a few thousand neurons to whole brain function and structural connectivity, will be possible and could open new windows into the scientific understanding of disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

"This is an instrument with which we want to push the boundaries of imaging brain function," said Ugurbil.

Last October, Siemens became the first MR manufacturer to get FDA approval for a 7-Tesla scanner, the MAGNETOM Terra. Later that month, Mayo Clinic announced it would be the first U.S. facility to install the system and use it for clinical diagnostics.

“We’re going to be using 7-Tesla for those things that require an even higher resolution," Dr. Kimberly Amrami, chair of the division of musculoskeletal radiology at Mayo Clinic, told HCB News at the time. "The signal-to-noise ratio is directly correlated to the field strength. When we have more signal, we can image smaller structures and still have good images. If the signal to noise is lower and we try to get very, very fine on small structures, it’s difficult, because the images get very noisy.”

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