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Chapel Hill, NC – UNC’s Biomedical Research Imaging Center (BRIC) will be the fourth site in the United States to obtain a leading-edge imaging system called an MRPET scanner (also known as a PET-MRI). The machine will first be installed in current BRIC building but will be moved to the new building going up adjacent to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and BRIC director Weili Lin, PhD, is already strategizing with top experts in the field to put this innovative technology to good use.


A group of scientists from Siemens Medical, UNC, Harvard University, and the Technische Universitat Muchen (Munich, Germany) met on the Chapel Hill campus to hear about the latest research and the most promising avenues for neurological and cancer imaging with this new technology.

The MRPET scanner is the first device that simultaneously performs PET and MRI scans, showing the function of organs (PET) and soft tissues and other internal bodily structures (MRI). The scan allows for imaging at a significantly lower radiation dose compared to PET/CT – a factor that can be important for children and adult patients undergoing multiple scans. The FDA approved use of the device in June, 2011.

“The simultaneous scanning capability of this system is very important when we are measuring a person’s response to an intervention. While we can use software to overlay imaging taken at different times, people are dynamic living systems and the data is best correlated when the scans are performed at the same time,” said Dr. Lin.

“Even more important is potential time savings for our patients who require both MR and PET studies.. Now they either have to make two visits or one very long single visit, both of which are inconvenient. These difficulties will be completely eliminated by this new machine,” said Dr. Lin.

This can be particularly important in imaging for cancer, neurological disorders and brain tumors, where conventional MRI or PET scans alone offer limited data for doctors trying to make a diagnosis.

BRIC researchers at UNC is focused on enabling a better understanding of disease, including cancer and neurologic diseases and studies the effects of genetic changes on disease development and progression. The center will develop new imaging technologies for a host of medical uses. Advanced imaging will be a key factor in physicians’ ability to determine whether new therapies work, for example, does a new treatment stop cancer progression even before it shrinks the tumor or will a treatment limit brain damage from stroke. The BRIC will also enable drug discovery and development for many diseases and track the success of nanotechnology in drug delivery.

The BRIC was established in 2005 to serve the imaging needs of UNC-Chapel Hill biomedical researchers and to advance the rapidly developing science of biomedical imaging. BRIC researchers are active across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines, including psychiatry, neurology, pathology, oncology, physics, biology, rheumatology, cardiology, gastroenterology, public health, genetics, neuroscience, psychology, radiology, radiation oncology, nursing, dentistry, pharmacology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, bioinformatics, and others.

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