Patients are already benefiting from advances at the renovated University of Arizona Biomedical Research Lab that include installation of a new 3T Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit. A grand opening was held earlier this week at the lab at 1609 N. Warren Ave. adjacent to the University of Arizona Medical Center - University Campus.
The acquisition of the MRI unit, a Siemens 3T Skyra scanner, was made possible through a collaborative effort between the UA Office of Vice President for Research, UA College of Medicine, UA Department of Medical Imaging (formerly Radiology) and the University of Arizona Health Network.
“This marks the culmination of a two-year project involving a coalition of support from the University of Arizona, the colleges, departments and BIO5 collectively investing in this project,” said Diego R. Martin, MD, PhD, The Cosden Professor and Chairman of the UA Department of Medical Imaging and UAMC Medical Imaging.
He expects greater research and research funding opportunities with the BMR Lab improvements now complete. It will support innovation and ongoing studies and collaboration locally, nationally and internationally for important clinical centers, including the Arizona Cancer Center, Sarver Heart Center and Arizona Arthritis Centers.
“This 3T MRI facility serves to jump-start our research activities with a dedicated research scanner that is the same as the new clinical scanners just installed in our hospital and outpatient facilities,” Dr. Martin said. “Now, we can truly focus on accelerating innovation that leads to important developments from bench to bedside. Even though we’ve just begun, we have already seen benefits that have improved delivering health care to our patients.”
The total project cost was about $3.2 million. The renovated lab will be run as a core support facility with financial oversight by the interim UA Vice President of Research Jennifer Barton, PhD, and operational oversight by Dr. Martin. This project is also supported through a research agreement with Siemens Medical Systems.
“Recently, the University and Arizona Health Sciences Center have made a major investment in Medical Imaging, including recruiting leading experts and in acquiring latest generation imaging technologies, with a view toward making the University of Arizona a leader in clinical applications,” Dr. Martin said. “MRI has become a focal point for innovation with new diagnostic capabilities that are now available for patients across the State of Arizona, at UAMC and Diamond Children’s.”
Others who contributed significantly to its success include the former UA Vice President of Research Leslie Tolbert, PhD, UA Regent’s professor in the Department of Neurosciences, and Caroline Garcia, chief financial officer for the Office of the Vice President of Research. Research scan time will be shared on the academic side (Psychology, Optics, etc.) and the hospital side (Medical Imaging, Internal Medicine, Neurology, etc.).
Renovations, which began in fall 2012, included gutting the previous lab, which housed nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers used in studying peaks and markers in cellular growth and change. The spectrometers are slated to go to the UA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to serve its research needs, according to Scott Squire, the UA senior MRI research specialist who oversaw BMR Lab renovations.
The new 3T MRI was installed in January 2013, but saw limited action until now due to that work. The MRI Lab at UAMC - University Campus includes another 3T Skyra scanner as well as two 1.5T MRI scanners, one from GE and another from Siemens. The new 3T Skyra scanner will open up more time for those scanners to be used in clinical applications.
Dr. Martin underscored that imaging sciences represents a major component of medical practice and science across an array of specialties in health care. Magnetic resonance imaging, in particular, has revolutionized our capacity to study tissues and diseases that affect patients, from structure to function, in ways inconceivable before. Providing in-depth, non-invasive analysis, MRI is a remarkably safe technology and does not use potentially harmful X-rays.
Not only does MRI allow for chemical analysis of tissue similar to that offered by NMR, it enables creation of images of human organs throughout the body in great detail. Over two decades, use of MRI to make diagnosis of most major diseases – including solid cancers and diseases affecting the heart and vasculature, brain, abdominal and pelvic organs, the bones and joints – and to safely study children or even the unborn fetus has developed at a massive pace.
“This has been driven by research and technology innovation and through strong university-industry partnerships,” Dr. Martin added.
About the University of Arizona Health Network
UAHN is Arizona's premier academic medical network. It includes the University of Arizona Medical Center - University Campus, UAMC - South Campus, Diamond Children's, the UA Cancer Center - North Campus and Orange Grove Campus, dozens of clinics, the University of Arizona Health Plans and the University of Arizona Physicians – which is the practice plan for faculty physicians of the UA College of Medicine. UAMC - University Campus also is Southern Arizona’s only Level 1 Trauma Center. The hospital has been nationally recognized for providing exceptional patient care, teaching new health-care professionals and conducting groundbreaking research through physician-scientists across multiple disciplines. It is consistently listed among the nation’s top hospitals in U.S. News & World Report’s prestigious “Best Hospitals” rankings. For appointments or further information, please visit uahealth.com.