Magnetic Resonance centre to boost medical research, by the University of Newcastle

MR centre announced

13 August 2013

Magnetic Resonance centre to boost medical research

A new Magnetic Resonance (MR) centre will be built adjacent to the HMRI Building in Newcastle, giving University of Newcastle-based medical researchers and clinical trial participants priority access to world-leading technology for the first time.

With Newcastle City Council having approved the development, site enabling works are set to commence immediately and specialist construction firm ACEPT Design has been appointed to assemble the prefabricated modular building.

The $2.5 million research facility is expected to be operating by December this year. A second MR scanning facility, with connecting atrium, is planned for a later construction phase, subject to funding availability.

"This is a major investment but one that we felt was urgently needed for our researchers and the community. It will allow faster access to this vital technology, whereas research work has often had to wait behind clinical usage in hospitals," Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Director Professor Michael Nilsson said.

"With the installation of both a Siemens clinical research magnet and an Agilent pathology magnet it will place HMRI and the University of Newcastle in a unique position world-wide. The MR scanner is state-of-the-art and will be the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere."

Carolyn Mountford, Professor of Radiology at the University of Newcastle and Harvard Medical School, was instrumental in securing the scanner from Siemens and has been appointed Director of the Centre for MR in Health.

"The project team led by HMRI Facilities Manager Graham Gunner and APP Corporation have done a fantastic job in getting the building designed and approved in such quick time," Professor Mountford said.

"This facility will greatly expand and enhance our capabilities to study health, ageing and disease."

MR technology has widespread applications in studying soft tissue in the brain, organs and muscles. An associated technique known as Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy can be used to detect metabolic changes in tumours, as well as strokes, seizures, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and other disorders affecting the brain.

Professor Mountford's own research focuses on chemical analysis of early breast disease, in addition to monitoring brain injury resulting from chronic pain, repetitive head impacts and post-traumatic stress.

The unit is expected to be in full-time demand from the date of commissioning, with more than 140 pre-bookings already received from researchers within HMRI's Brain & Mental Health, Cancer, Mothers and Babies and VIVA (Viruses, Infections/Immunity, Vaccines, Asthma) programs.

Funding provided by the Federal Department of Health and Ageing stemmed from the original HMRI Building construction budget, while the University of Newcastle is contributing to equipment costs. Space for the extension was allocated during initial design scoping for the HMRI Building.

Once operational the centre is expected to be self-funding.

"We are very fortunate in having researchers with the skill to efficiently and effectively utilise this MR technology," Professor Nilsson said. "As a researcher myself, working in stroke rehabilitation, I am really excited about this opportunity and I know so many other researchers who feel the same.

"It will be a fantastic tool for allowing the rapid translation of research findings into better health outcomes for patients, which is one of HMRI's unique strengths."

  • MR imaging is now well established as a diagnostic modality, with units in most major hospitals. The same system can also be used to study the chemistry of organs, which reports on health, ageing and disease, and it can monitor brain function using a protocol known as Functional MRI (fMRI).
  • Professor Mountford's team has been appointed a Siemen's world-wide development site of spectroscopy since 1998.
  • MAGNETOM Prisma 3T unit supplied by Siemens. Agilent 400MHz NMR system on two-year loan courtesy of Agilent Technologies.

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

 

Contact: Mark Rothfield, HMRI Communications
Contact Phone: +61 2 4042 0590
Contact Email: mark.rothfield@hmri.com.au