Scanner installation milestone for MRI centre

Nov 1 2013

Down the hatch – the high-tech scanner gently transits from truck to resting place.

Building work on the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) centre has reached a pivotal milestone, with technicians lowering the new scanner into place.

The delicate installation process proceeded without a hitch as the prefabricated building modules were custom-designed for the Siemens MAGNETOM Prisma 3T unit. Commissioning work is now proceeding ahead of the centre’s planned opening in December.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at The University of Newcastle, Professor Nick Talley, said the acquisition of the equipment promised to stimulate a number of ground-breaking projects.

“The University is very proud to take possession of this exciting new technology, the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere,” Professor Talley said.

“The establishment of the new MRI centre is indicative of the strength of the University and HMRI’s partnership and our joint commitment to making cutting-edge research and facilities available to the local community.

“The installation of this machine will further build the capacity to conduct pioneering research across an amazing range of health and medical fields.”

HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson said the scanner positioned HMRI in the top echelon of leading global MRI research institutions.

“The skill needed to use this technology is quite rare but we have some of the world’s best MRI researchers here in Newcastle,” Professor Nilsson said. “Their expertise has largely outstripped the technology available locally, which is why we need this machine.

“Already we have projects lined up for sports-related concussion, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance abuse, pain, food addiction, stroke rehabilitation, cancer and more.”

Acting Facility Manager for the Centre, Associate Professor Peter Stanwell, said the MAGNETOM Prisma 3T was essentially a commercialised version of a machine created in Boston in a collaboration between Siemens, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to tackle the challenges of the Human Connectome Project.

“The Obama Administration and the EU have committed to funding totalling 7 billion dollars over the next decade to map every synaptic connection in the human brain – and there are 1 billion neurons in the brain with tens of thousands of these connections,” Associate Professor Stanwell said.

“This machine evolved from these international programs but can be used on all parts of the body, not just the brain.

“The effort to map the Human Connectome has been described as significant as the Human Genome Project, because defects in the structural and functional connectivity of the brain are thought to be the genesis for a lot of human disease.”

Siemens Australia MR Business manager Wellesly Were confirmed that the system was nearly twice as powerful as any other similar product available on the market.

“We are really talking about the absolute cream of the global research MR fraternity using this machine, and we are very excited that the first one in Australia will be installed and available in Newcastle at the beautiful HMRI centre,” Mr Were said.

Carolyn Mountford, Professor of Radiology at the University of Newcastle and Harvard Medical School, was instrumental in securing the scanner from Siemens.

HMRI is a partnership between Hunter New England Health, the University of Newcastle and the community.