Researchers in Oxford hope a new scanner producing much higher resolution images will allow doctors to diagnose conditions such as Alzheimer's at a much earlier stage. Stuart McDill reports.
The latest generation of MRI scanners. Magnetic resonance imaging already gives doctors a view inside their patients' body without using a scalpel - and their view is getting even better. Developed in the UK city of Oxford this MRI scanner's so powerful it'll allow doctors to diagnose problems much earlier than they could before and help them develop drugs to treat those conditions. MRI scanners work by moving water molecules in the human body with a strong magnetic field. By altering the field the molecules move and those tiny differences can be built into an image. Magnetic strength is measured in Teslas - Siemens' new scanner will be the first 7 Tesla magnet suitable for clinical use. The company's Chief Technology Officer Simon Calvert says the scanner's high resolution images could help treat conditions like Alzheimers . SOUNDBITE (English) SIMON CALVERT, SIEMENS CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, SAYING: "As we grow the number of users then the actual research work on these diseases, debilitating disease, will bear fruit in terms of drug development, in terms of understanding the mechanisms of these diseases." In the John Radliffe Hospital in Oxford that theory is being put to the test Peter Jezzard is Professor of Neuro Imaging. He says sharper scans will help surgeons treating Parkinson's sufferers with electrodes in the brain. SOUNDBITE (English) PETER JEZZARD, PROFESSOR OF NEURO IMAGING, JOHN RADLIFFE HOSPITAL, SAYING: "It's quite hard to see the very tiny nucleii that you need to implant these electrodes in. So using something like 7 Tesla imaging you can do very high resolution imaging, you can get the contrast that you need in order to identify the particular sub-parts of the nucleii that you need to implant these electrodes in, so that will be an example where 7 Tesla could really help." Drug developers also stand to benefit - better images speeding up the ability to see if a new drug actually works