Pre-clinical play

Varian and GE Healthcare join forces to develop a new 7T MR preclinical imaging system

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PALO ALTO, Calif.—Expecting a strong market for pre-clinical MRI systems with double-digit growth rates over the next five years, GE and Varian Inc. will collaborate to develop an integrated 7T MRI system. GE Healthcare's Bryan Mock, the company's global high field MRI product manager, expects the partnership to produce its first system by Q2, 2009 and be in full production within a year.

Varian has developed key technologies relating to small bore, high field magnets, gradients, RF coils and sample handling. GE Healthcare's state-of-the-art electronics, user interface, pulse sequences and applications are familiar to scientists and clinicians around the world. This collaboration allows GE Healthcare to expand its preclinical imaging offerings, which currently include PET, SPECT, CT Scanners, as well as tri-modality imaging systems. Varian has a well-established MRI product range that is highly regarded by the MR scientific community, notes spokesperson Dr. Amy Herlihy, MRI marketing manager at Varian.

The collaboration will provide GE users with an option to enter into the preclinical MR imaging field with a product they are familiar with. "Varian has extensive experience in the preclinical MRI field and we are excited about bringing this opportunity to the GE community," Herlihy states.

The Tesla (T) is a unit of magnetic flux density or magnetic inductivity. To date, 7 Tesla (7T) magnetic resonance systems have not yet been in used clinically, only in research settings. In contrast to the 1.5 and 3T devices, 7T systems have a higher magnetic field and provide sharper images and better insights into extremely small structures.

Herlihy notes that for many years 7T has been considered a "sweet spot" for preclinical research work. It offers high signal-to-noise and contrast, "exquisite" spatial resolution and excellent chemical shift.  There is now a huge database of pre-clinical work that researchers can draw on, she notes. Due to the excellent soft tissue contrast achieved, Mock adds, researchers can look at physiology and metabolism as well as pharmacokinetics.

GE is contributing the clinical front-end and electronics, including the image database and image reconstruction processor, which will obviously appeal to existing GE customers as they will be familiar with the user interface. The system will also provide tools aimed at giving the sample handling a truly clinical feel, again making the transition from clinical imaging to pre-clinical as easy as possible.

Varian, which offers an extensive line of preclinical MRI scanners, from 4.7T to 16.4T systems with bore sizes ranging from 16cm to 90cm, will provide the full MRI system, magnets, gradients, electronics, positioning devices and rf coils.
"We are endeavoring to ensure that the environment—from the user interface through to the RF coils and system appearance—appeals to the customer who is looking for a preclinical system that will give them a simple transition from the clinical environment," Dr. Herlihy says.


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