The centerpiece of the Lewis Center for Neuroimaging (LCNI) is the powerful Siemens MAGNETOM Skyra 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. That tool, which is a little more than a year old, is about to get an upgrade that will expand the range of imaging options available to researchers.
The upgrade to the LCNI magnet involves the addition of new hardware and software for parallel radiofrequency (RF) transmission. Parallel transmission allows shaped RF transmit pulses, which improves image quality and enables selective excitation of partial fields of view. This is the second major upgrade to LCNI’s Skyra, the first of which was an upgrade adding multinuclear spectroscopy. That upgrade allows researchers to detect the MR signal of elements – including phosphorous-31 and carbon-13 – that most MRI machines cannot detect.
One of the first researchers to use this technology is Anita Christie, professor in the Department of Human Physiology. Christie is investigating how energy production within muscles changes with advanced age (65+ years) in individuals who are considered “healthy agers” and those who are showing signs of mobility impairments.
“We are particularly interested in how differences in muscular energy production impact the nervous system and contribute to fatigue, a common complaint of older individuals with reduced mobility,” said Christie. “The new spectroscopy measures will allow us a level of precision that is only available at a handful of institutions around the world.”
Although the UO’s previous MRI machine could perform multinuclear spectroscopy, researchers were limited by the machines bore size (35 cm). The new MRI has a 70 cm bore that can comfortably fit a subject’s body, allowing researchers to create detailed images of limbs in action. Without the Skyra, the only way Christie would have been able to obtain data for her research would have been through muscle biopsies, an invasive procedure that provides only a snapshot of information at a given time. Multinuclear spectroscopy, in contrast, is a non-invasive procedure (no needles like a biopsy) and can continuously sample data.
The Lewis Center for Neuroimaging is one of the first sites in the United States to develop its own coils for multinuclear spectroscopy for the latest series of Siemens Skyra MRI machines. Siemens partners with research institutions, like the University of Oregon, to develop new technologies and techniques for magnetic resonance imaging research and diagnosis. The innovations in coil design done at the UO could one day be adopted by Siemens to benefit future hospitals, clinics and research institutions.