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State-of-the-art scanner launched

Friday, 9 December 2016 1:13pm

MRI-imag
The new state-of-the art scanner was launched at a function on Tuesday evening.

The University and Pacific Radiology officially launched a state-of-the-art MRI at Pacific Radiology’s new facility in Great King Street this week, opening the door to world-class imaging research at Otago.

Working together, the Pacific Radiology Group (PRG) purchased and installed the magnet, while the University of Otago and Otago alumni donors provided funds to buy specialised additional hardware and software to enhance its research capabilities, especially with respect to studying brain function.

Co-Director of the University-led CoRE Brain Research NZ – Rangahau Roro Aotearoa Professor Cliff Abraham says regular access to MRI for research has been a long-held dream at the University, but until now it has not been possible given the clinical demands for scans.

“Over the last 20 years researchers have been restricted in access to the scanners at Dunedin Hospital and Otago Radiology due to clinical demand, leaving the University at a severe competitive disadvantage.

"We’re very grateful to the donors for this project. They raised a significant amount of money and this has been used to obtain the extra equipment we need for imaging the activity of the brain."

“Although we have world-class researchers, we could not undertake quality scanning of body organs and the brain, which also affected our ability to teach parts of modern science, particularly human biology and psychology.”

This has been turned around with the new purchase – which was supported by the 2013 Alumni annual appeal.

“We’re very grateful to the donors for this project. They raised a significant amount of money and this has been used to obtain the extra equipment we need for imaging the activity of the brain.”

Professor Abraham says the University is anticipating a 50/50 split of use of the scanner, but that this will be flexible and will change with activity and demand.

Speaking at the launch, University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie said this is a very important partnership for the University.

“Through this partnership the local community will benefit: firstly with the lift in the quality of diagnosis and care that PRG will deliver; secondly, with the benefits to health and wellbeing that the findings from our University will bring; and, thirdly, through the employment of skilled and specialist staff that the facility will require to run both clinical and research operations.”

The MRI is already being used by the University’s Dunedin Longitudinal Study to scan its cohort of study participants, with an aim to understanding factors that influence the rate of biological and cognitive aging.

Other studies will include brain scanning as part of a new Dementia Prevention Research Clinic, studies of neuroplasticity by neurosurgeon Prof Dirk de Ridder, as well as studies of learning, anxiety, drug addiction, emotions, stroke recovery and epilepsy. Other kinds of research will investigate energy metabolism in muscle and liver and effects of diet and exercise on these measures.

Professor Abraham says other research areas will develop as skills and interest in MR imaging grow across campus.