GE’s X-Ray Free MRI May Help Solve Obesity Epidemic

Worlds most powerful full body scanner now has fewer harmful side effects, and has increased in size and comfort to accommodate larger patients.

A double strength MRI scanner unveiled at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the UK will enable doctors to do more extensive research into the human stomach without the harmful side effects of long term exposure to X-rays. The added accuracy of the scanner will be crucial in examining the liver, fat and internal tissues providing greater understanding into the causes linked with preventable conditions like obesity and diabetes. The scans will also offer new insight into the internal interactions between drugs, food and bacteria. In addition to providing better imaging, the technology is more patient-friendly, offering more space and alleviating the claustrophobic feeling many feel during an MRI scan.

With an aging population suffering from chronic conditions and disabilities, the new high tech, human-centered designed device will ease examinations for researchers and patients alike. The GE Healthcare Discovery MR750w 3 Tesla MRI scanner adds an additional four inches to the diameter of the bore or patient entry point, and is capable of  scanning patients without repositioning them, which eliminates the “nose-to-magnet” anxiety associated with lying inside of the machine’s tight quarters. A motion dampening bed contains flex coils that contour to the needs of individual patients, enabling the scanner to handle 500 pounds more than those currently in use. As many as 4,000 local patients each year will benefit from the device, which will also serve a critical resource for ongoing research.

Given the increasing global obesity rates, researchers hope the machine will provide valuable insights to the 11,000+ researchers currently working at the universities and research centers connected with the Norwich research park, as well as the wider medical community. Without the harmful effects associated with X-rays, researchers will be able to scan research participants and patients an unlimited number of times, opening the door to new areas of investigation. Dr Paul Malcolm, the MRI lead from the hospital, noted that researchers will be able to sequence the highly detailed images to track internal changes through the entire course of digestion:

This new MRI scanner will be a new platform for joint research themes such as the function of the human gut and obesity which are being studied on the Norwich Research Park. Imaging of the gut without the need for X-rays is increasingly important in understanding how the gut and digestion work. The ability to assess fat in the liver and other tissues with MRI is essential as we try to understand and tackle the problems of obesity.

The best in class technology will help to push the new, nearly $8 million, world class research facility forward in providing critical food, health and microbial science research.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals.

Image credit: GE

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