Barrow Neurological Institute, ASU unite to open new imaging center

April 21, 2009

By hammersmith

By uniting their research resources, Arizona State University and Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) have made a way for scientists throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area to see more clearly.

On April 8, leaders from both institutions, joined by colleagues from the broader biomedical-research community, celebrated the opening of the BNI-ASU Center for Preclinical Imaging, on the St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center campus. The facility’s most-prized new asset is a 7-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, enabling high-resolution visualization of anatomy, brain function, and disease progression.

The 7T MRI, which will be used for in-vivo, small-animal imaging, offers resolution below 100 micrometers. That precision allows researchers to study structures and tissues smaller than the width of a human hair, for such applications as more-accurate measurement of tumor growth or earlier assessment of a drug candidate’s efficacy. By providing more-detailed maps of the brain, the scanner will enable new investigations of disorders like epilepsy and depression and diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Sharing our physical but also intellectual capabilities shows great promise for the people of Arizona,” said Robert Spetzler, director of BNI. “This center provides precisely the environment of collaboration that is the future of Arizona.”

Rick Shangraw, ASU vice president for research and economic affairs, agreed. “In the past, we have had the research base, but not always the clinical base or the technical base,” he said.

Dr. Shangraw noted that the collaboration between ASU and BNI extends beyond sharing research resources, including a cross-institutional doctoral program. “The opening of the Preclinical Imaging Center is a signature of the strong and growing partnership between BNI and ASU,” he continued, “and is reflective of the larger partnership in interdisciplinary and translational research that extends throughout the Valley and the state.”

The acquisition of the 7T MRI was funded by a $1.3 million grant in 2005 to ASU researcher Ranu Jung from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources.

Locating the scanner at BNI was especially appropriate because of the existing resources of equipment and expertise that were already assembled there. The Center for Preclinical Imaging also offers an IVIS Spectrum Imager for high-sensitivity bioluminescent imaging and advanced fluorescent imaging; BNI’s Keller Center for Imaging Innovation offers a 3-Tesla MRI for whole-body human research. Together, the two facilities will be known as the Core Imaging Centers.

John Murphy, president and CEO of the Flinn Foundation, noted that BNI and ASU were closely following the recommendations of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, the 2002 document that identified bioimaging as an emerging convergence of technologies that would help to drive biomedical research and commercialization, and recommended that institutions pool their resources to maximize competitiveness.

“The most important part is the assembly of talent, and you have that here,” Murphy told the group assembled for the Center’s opening.

John Gore, who directs the Institute of Imaging Sciences as Vanderbilt University, delivered a keynote address at the event, reviewing the capacities and best practices of current imaging science.

“This 7T MRI will in time provide significant additional capabilities for neuroscientists,” Dr. Gore said. “The key to making a center like this work,” he added, “is to have collaborators come in and use its full capabilities.”

Jim Pipe, director of neuroimaging research at BNI, assured attendees that the scientists who will manage the scanners in the Core Imaging Centers will assist researchers in using the full suite of imaging techniques that are available with the scanners.

“Costs for use of the scanners don’t go into our own research pockets,” Dr. Pipe said. “They go back into the imaging centers to make them better.”

The Core Imaging Centers provide Arizona with a second hub for biomedical-imaging research, along with the larger bank of imaging resources assembled by the University of Arizona.

For more information:

ASU news release, 04/10/2009