Twin Cities U of M Obtains Gigantic Imaging Magnet

Twin Cities U of M has world's largest magnet

The Twin Cities U of M has obtained a gigantic imaging magnet.  It is the world’s largest imaging magnet to have ever been made.  The magnet was transported over the Atlantic and slowly progressed by ship on the great lakes until it reached Duluth, Minnesota.

This huge magnet is actually an MRI machine than can take images of the whole human body.  Now the U of M Imaging Center has it and it is going to be a grand experience using it for a variety of research projects, such as brain and human body studies.  The magnet actually weighs 110 tons and no other magnet exists like it.  In order to transport it to the U of M in the Twin Cities, a trailer with 64 wheels and measurements of 16-by-150 feet were required.

Dr. Kamil Ugurbil described the huge magnet sort of looking like a big iron piece that had a hole going through it.  When first looking at it, the magnet really does not seem to have of anything to do with higher technology, although, taking a peek inside the magnet reveals that is has extremely complicated technical structures.  The amount of wire inside is about 720 miles worth.  The magnet also needs to be ramped up with helium, so about 40,000 liters are needed.  It will take about 3 or more months just to start up the magnet to be ready for use.  About $10 to $20 million went into building this magnet with a shield of iron around the electronics.

The magnetic field strength is measured with Tesla units.  When scientists compare current MRI scans to the very large magnet, the average MRI only uses a magnetic field ranging from 1.5 to 3 Tesla units.  The greater the Tesla unites, the more detailed the MRI image.  This magnet is so unique; a person will not find it in your nearby hospitals as it ranges with at least 10.5 Tesla units.  The U of M professors are not the only people using this magnet.  Other scientists across the country are coming in to work on some research projects in the Twin Cities.

With only about 60 centimeters of space, a human would lie on the table and be placed inside this unique magnet.  The Twin Cities U of M has obtained this gigantic imaging magnet in order to study human brain activity, structure and anatomy.  Scientists want to understand psychiatric illness or even be able to diagnose disease if they individually show preservation that has happened in the brain.  In about July of 2014, the researchers should be able to start testing.

Dr. Ugurbil is teamed up with another researcher to map the brain within the  Human Connectome Project.  He is also part of a project approved by President Obama that is worth about $100 million.  The project is called the NIH BRAIN Initiative in order to investigate what The Human Genome project finished for Genetics.  Brain research is going very strong lately, due to all the new cases and varieties of dementia that are happening within the older populations.  There is also hope for more research investigating neurological disorders, such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.  With the Twin Cities U of M obtaining this gigantic imaging magnet, we now have a huge opportunity to discover any new data on a variety of diseases.

By Tina Elliott


ABC Channel 5 News

ABC News

Star Tribune Health

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