Technology Science: the world’s most powerful MRI magnet has just delivered its first images

Science: the world’s most powerful MRI magnet has just delivered its first images

The instrument, unique in the world, is imposing: five meters in diameter, five meters long, more than 130 tons. Iseult, the name of this project, is the strongest MRI magnet ever made and generates a record-breaking magnetic field. “When you have a magnetic field, you speak in Tesla. In the MRI scans that are found in all hospitals today, it is between 1.5 and 3 Tesla, Explain Lionel Quettier, engineer and Iseult project manager. There, we will multiply the field level by four, to 11.7 teslas. So we push back as much as possible what is possible today. “

It took six years to manufacture the magnet to assemble the thousands of kilometers of a rare alloy, nobium-titanium, which make up the enormous 45-ton coil. Since its delivery in 2017 to the Paris-Saclay site of the Atomic Energy Commission, this magnet has had to be connected to the rest of the installation, in particular the mini-factory responsible for maintaining it at temperatures flirting with absolute zero. We are here above −271 ° C.

A lot of tests were also necessary before having these first images, unveiled Thursday, October 7. For safety, it is a pumpkin that was inspected but in the future it is indeed applications in the field of medical research which are targeted by the installation. With an opening of 90 cm, Iseult will be the most powerful MRI scanner that can accommodate a human body. Nicolas Boulant is Imager Manager at NeuroSpin, a CEA unit dedicated to brain exploration. For him, the Iseult MRI offers above all a margin of maneuver to study the brain in a more precise way. “We know, for example, that around half a millimeter, the cortex of the brain is organized in laminar layers, notes this scientist, currently we do not always understand their role very well. There, we will be able to study it more closely. ” As a result, the possibility of better understanding the anatomy of the brain but also its functioning during cognitive tasks, or in the face of neurodegenerative pathologies (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), psychiatric conditions (bi-polar disorders) or vascular.

This stage of the first images achieved, there are still long months of work for the teams to make the machine more reliable, also to obtain the approval of the health authorities before being able to install the first volunteers.

The first images taken via the MRI of the Iseult project.  The researchers used a pumpkin to safely test the device.  (CEA)

Images of pumpkins taken from the MRI of the Iseult project (CEA)

IRM Iseult has just delivered its first images – Olivier Emond’s report

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