JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

June 8, 1998

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Hopkins and General Electric Partner To Develop New MRI

In a new form of corporate and academic partnership for Johns Hopkins, researchers from Johns Hopkins and General Electric (GE) Corp. will develop a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based rapid imaging machine to speed diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks and strokes, reduce mortality, and even lower health care costs

A new Hopkins facility that opens at 1 p.m. on June 9, 1998, will house the project, according to Elias Zerhouni, M.D., chairman of the Department of Radiology.

Calling the proposed machine a "super scanner," Zerhouni predicts a time when, like technology from "Star Trek," a patient spends just 30 minutes in an MRI for a complete body scan, reducing the time and money needed to diagnose illnesses.

The Hopkins-GE team will use the first of GE's new type of MRI scanner, which is smaller and less than half the weight of previous MRI units. Such MRIs will make it easier for even small hospitals to place the scanners conveniently, without the need to reinforce floors.

"This research alliance is unlike anything Hopkins has done before," Zerhouni says. "The role of the radiology department in this project is not to test a new technology for GE. Instead, GE engineers will move into offices in the department and be in daily contact with our researchers."

Hopkins researchers, lead by Zerhouni, already developed a technique for creating images of a beating heart to locate specific areas of damage caused by ischemia, or lack of blood.

More recently, a team led by Robert G. Weiss, M.D., associate professor of medicine and cardiology, developed the first precise, noninvasive means of measuring a chemical in the heart that indicates the extent of muscle damage from a heart attack (Lancet, March 7, 1998). The technique, which measures levels of the chemical creatine, even lets doctors see heart muscle damage in the back of the heart wall, a difficult area to observe with older imaging techniques.

In addition, a team lead by Peter C. Van Zijl, Ph.D., professor of radiology, developed a technique for calculating how much oxygen is being used by specific brain areas, information that will be useful for studying the early stages of stroke. The findings were published in the February 1998 issue of Nature Medicine.

Reporters wishing to tour the new facility or interview any of the researchers should call Marc Kusinitz at (410)955-8665 or Gary Stephenson at (410)955-5384.

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