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Magnetic Imaging

Discover what’s possible. Browse these features to find out more about the impact of University of Minnesota research, education, and care—and how you can help.

The University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) is among the first to be awarded a federal grant resulting from President Obama's BRAIN Initiative, an effort to develop next-generation brain imaging technology.

MSN - CMRR 10.5 tesla Magnet - Kamil Wide CMRR.jpg

After a monthlong journey by boat from England, across the Atlantic, and through the Great Lakes, the world's largest imaging magnet made its way from Duluth, Minnesota, to its new home at the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, arriving on December 6.


William Lewis Anderson never had the chance to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor. The combat medic died trying to save a wounded soldier on the battlefield in Italy during WWII. Now, more than seven decades later, a $4 million gift made in his honor will help train today's medics and help heal the psychological scars that haunt some veterans who return home.


Traditional heart imaging methods may not always provide enough information for physicians to understand the cause of a patient’s symptoms or plan the best treatment. The new frontier in advanced imaging includes cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT (computed tomography), and PET (positron emission tomography), which open up a whole new level of information for every area of cardiovascular medicine.

Image: Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (2010)

Traditional imaging techniques work well most of the time. But sometimes the next level of imaging is needed to solve a puzzle, as in the case of a 42-year-old man who was having breathing problems and passing out repeatedly.

University of Minnesota imaging expert Michael Garwood, Ph.D., and urologic surgeon Christopher Warlick, M.D., Ph.D., are collaborating on new ways to use MRI technology to diagnose and monitor prostate cancer. (Photo: Scott Streble)

For several decades, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has given cancer researchers and physicians a sensitive tool to help track down tumors. But University of Minnesota scientists believe there is room for improvement. Now University physicians are working closely with research colleagues at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) to push the capabilities of MRI and explore new ways it could be used in cancer detection, diagnosis, and therapy.

This diffusion spectrum image shows brain wiring in a healthy adult. the Thread-like structures are nerve bundles, each containing hundreds of thousands of nerve fibers. (Image courtesy of Van J. Weeden, M.D., MGH/Harvard University.)

Rumors were flying that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was thinking big. Science's next great frontier would aim to unlock mysteries of the brain, and the NIH was ready to put up big money to make it happen. Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., knew that the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) had to be a part of that study.

University imaging and neuroscience expert Noam Harel, Ph.D., pushes the limits of magnetic resonance technology. (Photo: Scott Streble)

An international team of scientists led by the University of Minnesota and Advanced MRI Technologies of California has discovered a way to produce magnetic resonance images of the brain at speeds dramatically faster than previously possible.

The newly expanded Center for Magnetic Resonance Research will house one of the world's largest and most powerful human imaging magnets. (Photo: Shawn Sullivan)

The University of Minnesota's world-renowned Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) in December opened a 65,000- square-foot expansion. The expanded space will house one of the world's largest and most powerful human imaging magnets, a 10.5 Tesla magnet capable of delivering the sharpest images ever seen through magnetic resonance imaging technology. It also houses the new Center for Clinical Imaging Research.

Thumbnail image for Alzheimer’s disease researcher Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., cuts the ceremonial ribbon at the Medical Biosciences Building opening December 1, while scientist Harry Orr, Ph.D., and Medical School Dean Frank Cerra, M.D., look on. (P

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and three other collaborating academic medical centers have received $26 million from the National Institutes of Health to identify risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of cognitive decline.

An ongoing University study has indicated that the vermis and cerebellar hemisphere, both located in the cerebellum, are the brain regions most impaired by AOA2.

Since it was identified through genetic testing in the early 2000s, ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 2 (AOA2) has become the second most commonly diagnosed form of recessive ataxia. But while more individuals are being diagnosed with AOA2, research on the disease remains scant. That paucity in data shouldn't last long, however, thanks to a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota's world-renowned Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR).

Klearchos Papas, Ph.D. Photo by Scott Streble

When the idea of transplanting insulin-producing islet cells first emerged many years ago, hope ran high that a cure for type 1 diabetes could be just on the horizon. Reality, however, has yet to catch up with the dream. Islets are not easy to keep alive through pancreas procurement, preservation and islet isolation, purification, and infusion into the liver, where the cells ideally begin producing insulin for their new host. Most transplants appear successful at first, but after two years more than half of recipients are back to needing other sources of insulin.

Biochemist Gülin Öz, Ph.D., is using magnetic resonance spectroscopy to track chemical precursors to spinocerebellar ataxia with the hopes of disrupting the process before the condition causes irreversible damage to the brain.

Some scientists make strides in biomedical research by acquiring state-of-the-art equipment and then using it to answer questions about living systems. "Good research can be done in that fashion," says Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR).


Magnetic resonance imaging has long been studied as a noninvasive tool for detecting breast tumors, and in fact, has nearly 100 percent sensitivity for detecting breast cancer. But the technology, which offers telling views of a tumor’s morphology, margins, and associated blood vessels, still can’t always discern whether the lump is benign or malignant.


Key to diabetes care is managing how the body handles sugar. Glucose is stored as glycogen in tissues throughout the body until it's called on to provide energy. But little is known about what happens to glycogen stored in the brain.

"What glycogen is doing there and whether it's metabolically active hasn't been defined‚ particularly in humans‚" explains Elizabeth Seaquist, M.D., a professor of endocrinology and diabetes at the University of Minnesota. "We haven't had a way to measure it."

Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D.

University professor Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., a pioneer in using ultrahigh magnetic fields to map areas of the brain, has been inducted into the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

Ugurbil, a professor in the departments of neurosciences, radiology, and medicine and director of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the Medical School, was one of 65 new members inducted in October.


University of Minnesota Medical School professor Michael Garwood, Ph.D., received the 2007 Gold Medal Award at the Joint Annual Meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and the European Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and Biology this summer.

Garwood, associate director of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the Medical School and a member of the Cancer Center's Breast Cancer Research Program, is internationally recognized for incorporating magnetic resonance imaging with magnetic resonance spectroscopy technology to noninvasively diagnose cancer and monitor response to cancer therapies.

Dr. Harvey and Evelyn Stone felt compelled to give back to the Medical School for preparing Dr. Stone for “a great future” in radiology.

The field of radiology looked a little different when Harvey Stone, M.D., studied at the University of Minnesota Medical School in the 1940s. No one taught ultrasound, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or positron emission tomography—standard subjects for today's students.

"We more or less just had X-ray studies," says Stone.

Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D.

The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) received a $7.9 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) award that will open the center's powerful imaging technology to more University neuroscience researchers.

"This grant is a result of all our work on brain sciences at the CMRR," Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., director of the CMRR and McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in the Medical School. "Now we will be able to expand this work even further."

Building momentum

It's a Wednesday afternoon, and things are hopping at the McGuire Translational Research Facility.

In one of the 30 offices lining the south side of the four-story building, a faculty member in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine is tapping intently at a keyboard. Just down the hall, through doors that open to a long, day-lit laboratory, a student pipettes liquid into a rack full of tubes, preparing to grow plasmids as part of a study on developing gene therapies for brain cancer. At a table looking out over the four-story atrium, three graduate students—perhaps from the Stem Cell Institute or the orphan drug program—eat late lunches from plastic containers. Upstairs and down, dozens of others are working on solutions to a spectrum of health problems: TB, HIV, malaria, Parkinson's, spinal cord injury.

Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), researchers can now see the network of continuous interactions in the brain. Each of the dots seen here represents a sensor. Green indicates positive synchronous interactions and red indicates negative interactions.

Minnesota researchers have discovered a novel way to assess the dynamic interactions of brain networks acting in synchrony on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis.

All behavior and cognition in the brain involves networks of nerves continuously interacting. Because these interactions in the brain happen at lightning speed, it has been difficult to accurately assess them. Current methods, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), take seconds to detect such activity — way too slow.


Anita Kunin knows the importance of finding the best ways to diagnose and treat breast cancer. She's a 15-year breast cancer survivor — and she's not alone. "I'm starting to feel like everyone I know is a survivor," she says. Kunin is also the founder and driving force behind the Regis Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, an organization affiliated with Regis Corporation, the Edina-based chain of hair salons founded by her husband, Myron Kunin.


Since 1780 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has been honoring the world's leading scientists, scholars, artists, business executives, and public leaders. And this fall, a University of Minnesota Medical School scientist has joined this exclusive and prestigious group.

Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., director of the University's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, was inducted into the 225th Class of Fellows in October along with 195 other new fellows and 17 new foreign honorary members. Other 2005 awardees include the late Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, TV newsman Tom Brokaw, actor Sidney Poitier, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eric Cornell, and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

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