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Top-Class System for Brain Research Ready to Start

Forschungszentrum Jülich and Siemens introduce Magnetic Resonance system with highest resolution

[29. April 2009]

Jülich, 29 April 2009 — Today, a magnetic resonance system (MR) for imaging techniques in brain research with an outstandingly high field strength of 9.4 tesla was officially inaugurated by Thomas Rachel (Member of the German Bundestag), Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and Prof. Andreas Pinkwart, Innovation Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The magnet is the main component of a unique device which has been developed by Jülich researchers in cooperation with Siemens AG. Combined with a positron emission tomograph (PET) which will be installed soon, Forschungszentrum Jülich has at its disposal a hybrid device with the highest field strength being available worldwide for research on humans.

The new hybrid device was financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and Siemens. "Demographic change requires new diagnostic and therapeutic methods particularly in the field of dementia," said State Secretary Thomas Rachel about the background of BMBF's involvement in funding the new 9.4-tesla tomograph with almost ¤ 10 million. "With the new hybrid device, we give Jülich researchers and their cooperation partners within the region an extremely powerful tool. It will open the door to explore of new diagnostic measures and treatments for people suffering from dementia."

The North Rhine-Westphalian Innovation Minister Prof. Andreas Pinkwart emphasised: "Today’s inauguration of ´9komma4´ is a milestone on our way to make Germany the No. 1 innovation country. The technological approach of combining the MRT and PET techniques is completely new. This does not only open Jülich and its partners new opportunities in such an important field as brain research but also strengthens North Rhine-Westphalia as a research region."

The 9.4-tesla magnetic resonance system is up to six times more powerful than conventional devices and about 200,000 times stronger than the magnetic field of the earth. "In the future, the new device will unable us to investigate different aspects of the metabolism in the brain using MRT and PET at the same time. This opens new horizons for us," explains Prof. Jon Shah, Director at the Jülich Institute of Neurosciences and Medicine and head of the "9komma4" project. "We will be able to identify brain structures even smaller than one tenth of a millimetre. This enables us to detect changes in the course of neurological diseases earlier than before." With the strong magnet, the brain researchers aim to investigate the specific mechanisms for neurodegenerative diseases on the molecular level in future.

"In Jülich, we combine basic research with medical applications to understand better neurological diseases and to improve their diagnosis and treatment," says Prof. Achim Bachem, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich. "This is directly related to further technological and methodological developments like those we are currently carrying out on the new hybrid scanner together with Siemens, the current market leader in the field of magnetic resonance system."

The new prototype is a pioneering technological achievement since as yet it was not possible to combine a MR-system with a field strength of 9.4 tesla with a PET in one device. The previous PET technology for signal detection does not work in a strong magnetic field. For this reason, the PET detector with avalanche photodiodes uses semiconductor components which also run in a magnetic field. "For several years, Forschungszentrum Jülich and Siemens have collaborated closely in a number of research projects. The 9.4 tesla project is an outstanding example of how the expertise of Jülich researchers complements the innovative power of Siemens. Here, the primary goal is to help patients even better in future," explains Walter Märzendorfer, CEO of Magnetic Resonance at Siemens Healthcare.

In addition to the technological challenges, Prof. Karl Zilles, Director at the Institute of Neurosciences and Medicine, considers the development of hybrid systems a decisive breakthrough on the way to completely new perspectives for neurological research: "For the first time, it is now possible to investigate the structure, function and molecular processes in the brain of a living human and to analyse their interactions as well as the therapeutic effects on all levels."

Jülich will also use the opportunities offered by "9komma4" for its partnerships in brain research. Jülich researchers aim to share their expertise for the development and use of imaging techniques with the new centre established by the Helmholtz Association, the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Bonn. Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University joined together in the JARA-BRAIN section of the Jülich-Aachen Research Alliance (JARA) in order to find new strategies for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental and neurological diseases. And at the beginning of this year, a close cooperation in the area of high-field MR was set up with the University of Maastricht in order to establish a European excellence centre for this research area.

Photos can be downloaded at:
www.fz-juelich.de/portal/research/health/9-4-mr-pet/images/


698_PREV_9_komma_4_einw_001_jpg

Official inauguration of the 9.4-tesla tomograph (from left to right): Prof. Karl Zilles (Managing Director of the Institute of Neurosciences and Medicine at Forschungszentrum Jülich), Walter Märzendorfer (Head of the Magnetic Resonance Division at Siemens AG), Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart (Minister of Innovation, Science, Research and Technology of North Rhine-Westphalia), Prof. Dr. Achim Bachem (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich), Thomas Rachel (Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research), Prof. Dr. N. Jon Shah, (Director of the Institute of Neurosciences and Medicine at Forschungszentrum Jülich) and Prof. Dr. Sebastian Schmidt (Member of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich).


Press contact for Forschungszentrum Jülich:

Annette Stettien
Press officer
Tel.: +49 2461 61-2388
email: a.stettien@fz-juelich.de

Dr. Anne Rother
Head of Corporate Communications
Tel.: +49 2461 61-6441


Press contact for Siemens:

Bianca Braun
Siemens AG, Healthcare Sector
Communications
Tel.: +49 9131 84-3278
email: bianca.braun@siemens.com

Frank Winterfeld
Siemens AG
Corporate Communications
Region West
Tel.: +49 211 399-1219
email: frank.winterfeld@siemens.com


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