Researchers Create Portable, Low-Cost MRI Scanner

December 1, 2020 12:05:22

If you’ve ever had to get a scan to assess for head trauma, then you probably had an MRI. The immobile and costly procedure is also used to detect brain cancer. To help make this diagnostic option more accessible, a group of scientists led by researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital has created a portable, compact, low-cost MRI scanner.

This scanner can be located in a doctor’s office or small clinics or installed in an ambulance. The portability of this power head only scanner also allows it to be wheeled into the ward or a patient’s room. This innovation was reported in a research that was published in the “Nature Biomedical Engineering” journal.

Clarissa Zimmerman Cooley, the study’s lead author, explains that while the MRI is the leading imaging technique used for brain imaging, acquiring and installing a regular MRI scanner is not only difficult but also expensive. The author is a researcher at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in Radiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She explains that in some cases, even when MRI scanners are available, it may be dangerous or difficult to move a patient to the scanner suites. She cites this as a major motivation behind the need to make the MRI more accessible.

Together with her colleagues, Cooley developed and examined the prototype MRI scanner for a brain scan. This prototype is plugged into an electrical outlet and creates much less noise in comparison with the conventional MRI scanner. This small MRI scanner’s magnet is said to be roughly the size of a laundry hamper and weighs 230 kg, which is roughly 500 pounds. This weight is inclusive of its cart, console, amplifiers, coils and magnet. The scanner’s cart can be pushed around from one place to another by one person. Additionally, its total weight can be reduced by about 70 kg, to about 350 pounds if some of its equipment is replaced with efficient and custom lightweight designs.

The researchers conducted tests on three healthy adult volunteers. They discovered that the scanner produced 3D brain images in roughly 10 minutes.

Cooley states that this technology may extend the MRI’s reach, adding that when developed further, it may allow scanning in remote locations, particularly in places where MRIs have not been available, as well as imaging for patients by the bedside.

Still on the subject of the brain, another company making a remarkable contribution is the biotech firm CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP). Its singular focus is on finding new remedies to cancers that affect not only the brain but also the central nervous system.

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