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Auburn University and its Samuel Ginn College of Engineering on June 21 dedicated a new MRI Research Center, a three-story, $21 million, 45,000-square-foot facility housing two of the most powerful research and clinical MRI scanners in the world.
The Siemens MRI scanners include a 7 Tesla, or 7T, scanner—which is one of fewer than 35 in the world and is used by researchers to conduct structural MRI scans, as well as functional MRI, providing dynamic images of how the brain works—and a 3T scanner, the most powerful MRI certified by the FDA for clinical use.
MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, uses magnetic signals to create images showing the inside of the body, helping doctors pinpoint problems affecting the body's organs.
"The MRI Research Center brings together Auburn University's expertise in engineering, science, pharmaceutics, agriculture, veterinary medicine and business with Siemens' expertise in magnetic resonance imaging as one of the world's largest suppliers to the health care industry," said Tom Denney, the center's director and the Ed and Peggy Reynolds Family Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering. "We're conducting research that focuses on cardiovascular and brain imaging as well as advancing MRI technology."
Auburn researchers and their collaborators will begin using the 7T scanner in July for research in areas such as brain function, metabolic imaging, pharmaceuticals, diabetes and heart disease. The scanner is one of two in the Southeast and one of 18 in the U.S., so Auburn plans to offer its use to other universities, medical centers and industry, Denney said.
The clinical 3T scanner is already in operation and is shared by the university and Opelika's East Alabama Medical Center, which uses the scanner during the week to help diagnose patients. Auburn faculty use the scanner for research during the evenings and on the weekends.
Both scanners are housed on the first floor of the facility, which was completed in September 2010. The second floor includes office space for Auburn faculty and staff, as well as clinical offices for local orthopedic surgeons and a distance-enabled classroom and conference room.
The third floor houses East Alabama Medical Center's RehabWorks, an outpatient physical therapy facility, and clinics for the U.S. Army Warrior Research Center and Auburn's Department of Kinesiology. Surgeon Lee Warren operates a clinic on the third floor that specializes in minimally-invasive back and neck pain management, brain tumors and neurological disorders.
"Auburn students and researchers, as well as local surgeons and clinicians, are helping to generate the innovative biomedical research and development required by today's high-tech economy," said Larry Benefield, dean of Auburn's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. "The center is already advancing science and technology in our state, as well as improving quality of life in the global community and promoting economic development in the region."
"There are only two Siemens 7 Telsa scanners in the Southeast and fewer than 35 of these scanners in the world. The fact that Auburn University's Ginn College of Engineering has one underscores our engineering ability and our job creation capacity," said Alabama State Senator Tom Whatley. "This Siemens 7 Telsa scanner will bring research dollars and jobs to east Alabama. We are proud to have it, and it is a priority of mine that I intend to continue supporting."
More information about the MRI Research Center is available at www.eng.auburn.edu/mri.
Last Updated: June 22, 2012