“Less is more doesn’t apply to MRI scanners”

In the four decades since the first predecessor of today’s MRI scanner was built, the strength of the magnetic field of scanners has increased dramatically. Scannexus offers three MRI scanners at a single location, with the strengths 3 Tesla, 7 Tesla and 9.4 Tesla. The strong magnetic fields generate MRI images of unparalleled quality. This power has already enabled the Scannexus MRIs to reveal many secrets of the human brain. The company is now on the eve of facilitating groundbreaking research on other parts of the human body. This will be made possible thanks to the impressive equipment on the one hand, and internationally renowned expertise on the other.

Scannexus’ three MRI scanners offer magnets with different strengths. Today, in the year 2018, the 3T scanner is a common sight in Dutch hospitals. However, the precision of a 7T scanner may only be found at four locations in the Netherlands, one of which is Scannexus. The powerful 9.4 Tesla scanner enables scientists to make the tiniest details in the human body visible. At present, there is only one of these machines worldwide that is in operation. The unique situation of having these three scanners in one place offers optimal research possibilities.

When tissue is exposed to a strong magnetic field, all the hydrogen atoms in the body line up in the same direction. These hydrogen nuclei (or protons) resonate in response to a radio wave of a certain frequency. This measurable signal is picked up by sensitive equipment in the scanner. Scannexus is capable of doing this in extreme detail because of the much more powerful magnetic field.

Scientists come to Scannexus with a clear idea of what they want to see visualized in test subjects. The only thing people who are very familiar with MRIs need is access to the equipment. There are also research questions for which Scannexus draws up a protocol together with the scientists. Implementing this

protocol and analyzing the data generated is one of the possibilities. More detail also means more pitfalls, however. Working with various scientists leads to an intensification of the knowledge within the company and also continuous improvements to the equipment.

Among other things, the 7T scanner showed that people who are physically incapable of communication were able to generate letters in brain scans by merely thinking about these letters. The scanners were also used to view the brain while the test subject wore a hand orthotic, to examine the effect of psychotherapy on the brain, and the effect of diabetes on cognitive functions during an early stage of the disease. In the future, countless patients all over the world will benefit from this knowledge that would not have been possible without the MRI scanners.

Now is the time to not only study the brain in more detail, but also the entire human body. Scannexus is currently working with plastic surgeons at the Maastricht UMC+. Surgeons learn even more about the field in which they already possess expertise thanks to the 3D images produced by the scanner. This helps them identify the possibilities to also repair nerves during breast reconstruction procedures. The powerful MRI scanners are also being used to study the spine, to map out the function of the nerve pathways running through our spines with great precision.

Active collaboration within the innovative Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus elevates scientific research to a considerably higher level. The international exchange of expertise in this specific field ensures that people with a passion for science will continue to have access to the most up-to-date knowledge on magnetic resonance. It is not only the scanners, but mostly the knowledge and skills available at Scannexus that are so internationally renowned. This is what has made Scannexus a frequently cited showpiece at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus, and rightly so.