MRI Pioneer to Receive IEEE Medal for Innovations in Healthcare Technology

Kamil Ugurbil helped revolutionize the field

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THE INSTITUTEIEEE Member Kamil Ugurbil is set to receive this year’s IEEE Medal for Innovations in Healthcare Technology for “pioneering the development and leading the advancement of ultrahigh-field MRI technology for biomedical and brain research.”

The MRI technologies developed by Ugurbil “expanded the boundaries of biomedical information content, accuracy, and spatiotemporal resolution of imaging and spectroscopy signals,” according to his nominator.

Ugurbil is a professor of radiology, neurosciences, and medicine at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and runs the school’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research.

He established the CMRR as one of the world’s premier in vivo magnetic resonance research laboratories. He and his team introduced a functional MRI methodology, measuring small changes in a brain’s deoxyhemoglobin content.

ADVANCING THE TECHNOLOGY

In 1995 the CMRR became the first laboratory to develop an MRI machine with a 7-Tesla magnet, large enough to scan a human body. The Tesla is the unit of measurement of a magnetic field’s magnitude. Magnetic-field strength impacts the amount of anatomical and functional detail that can be obtained in the images.

It wasn’t until 1999, however, that a 7T scanner was installed, made operational and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for research on the human body. In 2017 the FDA approved the use of 7T MRI machines for clinical diagnosis of brain and musculoskeletal diseases.

Ugurbil’s efforts in pushing MRI technology to 7T from 3T demonstrated that such a strong magnet provided useful improvements in contrast, sensitivity, and specificity. The researchers’ work led to the commercial availability of 7T MRI scanners.

The team also has developed the world’s first 10.5T whole-body scanner. The first images on the 10.5T machine were produced in 2017. The CMRR is currently conducting safety testing monitored by the FDA.

Further development of UHF MRI machines, Ugurbil says, will enable new methods to diagnose and evaluate cancer, cardiac ailments, and neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.

The award is scheduled to be presented during the annual Honors Ceremony, part of the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit, to be held on 17 May at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.

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