AsianScientist (Dec. 14, 2021) – When it comes to assessing brain injuries and disorders, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines are an invaluable tool. However, that efficiency comes at a price: conventional MRI machines can cost as much as US$1–3 million to build and install, on top of high operational, maintenance and energy costs each month. Because of these factors, it is estimated that around 70 percent of the world’s population have little or no access to MRI scans.
That may soon change, thanks to a new inexpensive MRI machine. In a report published in Nature Communications, Professor Ed X. Wu, Chair Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, and his colleagues described the development of the compact ultra-low field MRI machine that could cost just under US$20,000.
“This configuration allows us to form images with various universally adopted contrasts and flexible orientations for clinical brain imaging,” the researchers wrote.
Besides being inexpensive to build, Wu’s prototype MRI machine is also easier to install outside of highly specialized health facilities as it can operate using a standard AC power outlet and does not require the bulky radiofrequency (RF) or magnetic shields that characterize traditional MRI machines.
“It is compact, potentially mobile and acoustically quiet during scanning. We designed an effective and simple electromagnetic interference elimination method to enable MRI scanning without any RF shield or cage,” they wrote.
Furthermore, the machine is capable of producing high-quality structural neuroimaging that could be used to successfully diagnose brain abnormalities. In preliminary tests, Wu’s machine was able to detect the signs of stroke and brain tumors in 25 patients, similar to conventional MRI machines.
Wu and his team conclude that this technology has the potential to fulfil unmet clinical needs across healthcare communities by making MRI services more accessible to patients in low- and middle-income countries. In line with that, they are currently making the key code and designs freely available in a public online repository.
The article can be found at: Wu et al. (2021) A low-cost and shielding-free ultra-low-field brain MRI scanner.
Source: The University of Hong Kong; Photo: Shutterstock.
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