News Release: Emory Healthcare , Research

Nov. 4,  2009

Unique Prototype MR/PET Scanning Device Housed at Emory Center for Systems Imaging

ATLANTA – The Center for Systems Imaging at Emory University recently installed one of the world’s only MR/PET scanners.

The scanner is one of four in the world - a state-of-the-art prototype device that arose from collaboration between Universitat Tubingen, The Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Juelich Germany, The Massachusetts General Hospital, Emory and Siemens. 

According to Carolyn Meltzer, MD, chair of the department of radiology, Emory School of Medicine, the research-only scanner has many advantages in providing imaging of the brain by simultaneously collecting both PET and MRI images. Its operation differs, for example, from a traditional PET/CT scanner where the CT scan is performed, the bed advances and then the PET data is then collected. 

“One major advantage is convenience for both the patient and investigator, not only in time savings, but in having registered images for easy fusion and interpretation,” says Meltzer. “This might be particularly important in the future for patients who are cognitively impaired or who have Alzheimer’s disease and cannot tolerate being in scanners for a long time.

“A second advantage is that it is known that the neural state of the patient is the same during both acquisitions,” notes Meltzer. “It will be known that the functional information from the MR and the functional information from the PET are separate realizations of the same underlying neural processing. We hope that this will lead to more sensitive studies of the workings of the brain.”

Jeffrey Bundy, vice president of magnetic resonance at Siemens Healthcare, says, “This project is an outstanding example of how the know-how of the Emory School of Medicine matches the innovation strength of Siemens. We are continuously using innovation to improve the patient experience and improve the quality and productivity in the hospital environment, and ultimately to drive down the overall cost of healthcare.”

Matthias Schmand, PhD, senior director of Siemens Healthcare Molecular Imaging, says, “Siemens is excited to advance the ongoing collaboration with Emory University on PET brain research. Emory presently employs Siemens HRRT (High Resolution Research Tomograph) for this purpose, but by merging MR and PET, we believe we will demonstrate that one (MR) plus one (PET) can be more than two.”

According to John Votaw, PhD, director of physics and computing in Emory’s Department of Radiology, the MR and PET scientists at Emory’s Center for Systems Imaging will be exploring the new device in the months to come and have plans to use the total information collected to improve the images from each modality.

“It is quite possible that the images derived from the combined device will be superior to ones collected on stand-alone scanners,” says Votaw. “This scanner is one of the most exciting developments in imaging in the last 10 years and I am looking forward to working with it.”

Established in 2008, Emory‘s Center for Systems Imaging is an integrated facility designed to synergize various aspects of imaging research and make imaging resources easily available to the greater university community. Imaging is inherently multi-disciplinary and becoming increasingly important to multiple fields of investigation.

The centralized state-of-the-art imaging facility is housed on Emory’s Wesley Woods campus, along with complementary, specialized resources along the Clifton Road corridor at Emory University Hospital, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory Winship Cancer Institute and the Whitehead Biomedical Research Building


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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