The Netherlands will get the sharpest MRI scanner in the world

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Philips employee is working on an MRI scanner
NOS News

The sharpest MRI scanner in the world must be installed in the Netherlands in three years’ time. Researchers hope that this will allow even better mapping of parts of the human body, such as the brain. The device should also be able to better detect diseases in the body.

The MRI scanner will be located in Nijmegen on the grounds of Radboudumc and Radboud University, thanks to a subsidy of 19 million euros.

The scanner is one of the nine projects that receive money to better facilitate scientific research. A total of 140 million euros is allocated by the Ministry of Education, Culture & Science.

“This is really great news,” says Professor Tom Scheenen, who is part of the Dynamic consortium in which the new scanner is being developed. “There is no such thing anywhere in the world. It really puts the Netherlands, and the universities that do it together, on the world map.”

14 Tesla

MRI scanners have been in hospitals and universities around the world for years. With the help of the device, doctors and scientists can make images of the body, for example of organs and tissues. The scanner does this using radio waves and magnetic fields.

They come in different magnet strengths, also called tesla. “Hospitals have scanners with a magnetic strength between 1.5 and 3 tesla,” explains Scheenen. “The strongest MRI scan is now in Paris, with a magnet strength of 11.7 tesla. This is not possible with the traditional method.”

The MRI scanner in Paris takes up a lot of space due to the high magnetic strength:

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    The strongest MRI scanner in the world, just after installation

But Scheenen and his colleagues now want to get over that. With the millions they receive, they will build an MRI scan with a magnet strength of 14 Tesla. The device should be there in three years.

The fact that it can now probably be even stronger is due to new technology. “A new so-called superconductor will ensure that we can send much more current through the same amount of cable. This will enable us to achieve higher magnetic strengths,” explains the researcher.

They expect that the strongest MRI scan will not be as large as the one in Paris, “but just the size of the hospital MRI scanners”.

The device will soon be used mainly for science, and not necessarily for patient care, says Scheenen. “This will probably allow us to look even more specialized at parts of the human body, such as the brain. What connections are there in the brain? And how are they in contact with each other?”

The scientists also hope to learn more about disorders in the brain, such as depression.

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