Snap-shots of a diseased heart or deep insights into cancer cells – a 7-tesla magnetic resonance tomograph promises scientists novel possibilities. The magnetic field of this so-called ultra-high field magnetic resonance tomograph (MRT) is 140 000 times as strong as that of the Earth and can make the most minute structures of the human body visible.
This facilitates not only the development of possibilities for diagnosis and therapy in the case of brain and cancer diseases, but also opens up completely new possibilities, among other things, in cardiac research.
One of the project partners is the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB, the national German Metrology Institute), whose scientists want to explore the technical possibilities of the new device and make it useful for clinical application.
As the fourth 7-tesla MRT worldwide (after Boston, Pittsburgh and Paris), the Berlin System is equipped with an 8-channel transmitter system, and with this technology the cardiac imaging by means of 7-tesla MRT moves into the public eye for the first time. New research ground could also be broken in the representation of molecular processes in the body, for example in combating tumours. Bernd Ittermann, head of the Department of Medical Metrology at the PTB, explains: "So far there are only about 30 magnetic resonance tomographs with such a high magnetic field strength, and most of them are used for brain research". The new whole-body MRT at the Max Delbrück Center is to, however, have considerably more widespread use. The machine will provide pictures of extremely high resolution from the interior of the body. The researchers expect to receive insights into the development of diseases and the metabolic processes involved.
In clinics, MRT machines with 1.5 or 3 tesla (that is the unit for the magnetic flux) are customary. The 7-tesla tomograph will at first be purely a research instrument in order to explore the possibilities of the ultra-high-field magnetic resonance tomography. It is the only machine worldwide of the modern 7-tesla generation in which also a metrology institute is involved.
The stray magnetic field of the magnet, weighing 32 tonnes is so strong that all objects containing iron are strongly prohibited in its direct proximity. Only outside of a cage nearly five meters high and 14 meters long and made of 250 tonnes of steel is the field shield strong enough, for example, for the operation of computers.
The project partners are in addition to the Max Delbrück Center and the PTB, also the Berlin Charité, the Leibnizinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (Leibniz Institute of Molecular Pharmacology) and the Siemens company.
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