11 Jul 2014

MRI for Laboratory Animals

OIST has acquired a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system which enables sophisticated physiological analyses of small animals.  OIST is the second university in Japan to own an MRI with such high static magnetic field strength, a feature which determines the resolution of the images.  The most effective ways to use this resource are currently being discussed by the University, and it is expected that open access to the new research equipment will also be granted to external users, contributing to the advancement of science throughout Japan.

MRI is a diagnostic imaging technique widely used in medicine to visualize interior features without harming the body. Atomic nuclei, especially hydrogen, placed in a magnetic field resonate with electromagnetic waves of specific frequency. MRI systems detect electromagnetic waves generated by the resonances and produce images by interpreting the intensity and frequency of the electromagnetic waves. MRI can create clear images of the brain, internal organs, or muscle that are composed of many hydrogen molecules, offering an efficient method to detect tumors and infarction in the brain. The intensity of the electromagnetic waves that determine how the image will come out, is almost proportional to the strength of the static magnetic field. The new instrument at OIST boasts the strongest magnetic field with 11.7 tesla, whereas conventional MRI scanners normally used in medical diagnoses can scan in 1.5 tesla. Since this powerful machine can provide various types of physiological information, it is effective in obtaining not only morphological information but also metabolic or functional information of small animals.

OIST Professor Tadashi Yamamoto and members of the Cell Signal Unit, who played a part in adopting the MRI system, are working to decipher the mechanisms of cancer, neurological diseases, immunological diseases, diabetes, and obesity, at the molecular level.  With the new system, they will be able to discover what changes are actually occurring inside the bodies of mice with specific genetic mutations, and track those changes in the same individual organisms over time.

To optimize use of the system and facilitate research results, OIST has hired a full-time technician. While concrete ways of using this new technology are still under discussion, expectations for its contribution to science at OIST are already high.

By Mayumi Nishioka

By Mayumi Nishioka


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