OHSU Announces New Imaging Research Center, Arrival of Internationally Recognized Center Director.
Charles S. Springer Jr., Ph.D., has been recruited to direct the center. Springer was a senior chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory before arriving at OHSU this fall. His decades of experience include research conducted at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Harvard Medical School and the California Institute of Technology. Most recently Springer's research has focused on a new way of interpreting MRI data utilizing a concept analogous to a camera's shutter speeds, which was discovered by his group of researchers a few years ago. Specifically, Springer and his colleagues are comparing water molecular movements in and around diseased or damaged cells with those in healthy cells. They measure these movements by understanding exactly how an MR aspect, the "shutter speed" for a particular movement, varies in almost any MRI signal acquisition. Springer believes these studies will provide physicians with more accurate disease prognoses by helping them distinguish between diseased tissues that can recover and those that cannot. For example, this technique might be helpful in determining the extent of vascular compromise in malignant tumors, myocardial infarctions and the extent of permanent brain damage caused by a stroke, along with applications to many other diseases. Springer hopes to continue and expand upon this work at OHSU.
"One of the important missions of the imaging center is to advance MR science by developing new forms of MRI for use in research and in treating patients," explained Springer. "Over the past couple of decades, remarkable and rapid technological advancements in this field have provided us noninvasive windows into the body, essentially making exploratory surgery a thing of the past. Another important goal of this center is to serve as a resource for OHSU scientists conducting studies that require the use of high-power MRI and the expertise needed in utilizing this cutting-edge technology."
For instance, Robert Hitzemann, Ph.D., and other scientists at OHSU will study brain changes caused by drug use. It is hoped that this data will lead to new treatments and drug abuse prevention methods.
Another ongoing research project focuses on the brain's ability to rewire itself. Researcher Alexander Stevens, Ph.D., is working with blind patients to determine how the brain is reconfigured following vision loss. The center's high-power MRI capabilities will aid in his efforts to map sensory function in the brain.
Additional studies conducted by Jeri Janowsky, Ph.D., and Edward Neuwelt, M.D., Ph.D., will focus on the effect of hormones on memory, and new methods for detecting and treating brain tumors. Cancer research will also benefit from the new center.
The research center will be permanently housed in OHSU's new Biomedical Research Building, currently under construction on OHSU's Marquam Hill Campus, with a satellite facility at OHSU's West Campus. Until completion of these buildings, the center currently resides in a temporary building located near OHSU's Child Development and Rehabilitation Center.
In its temporary location, the center houses a new 3-Tesla MRI instrument for humans purchased with $4 million provided in 2001 by the federal government's Office of National Drug Control Policy in a grant to Janowsky, who was then the center's interim director. When the center moves to its permanent home in the Biomedical Research Building, the MRI machine will be permanently installed on the first floor. That building also will contain two additional high-power MRI scanners below ground level: a 7-Tesla instrument for humans and a 12-Tesla machine for small animal subjects. A 4-Tesla MRI instrument will reside at the west campus satellite facility.
MRI is an imaging technique developed to create high-resolution 3-D pictures of any location in the body. It uses computer-controlled radio frequency waves and magnetic field gradients inside large magnets strong enough to generate fields tens of thousands times stronger than the earth's magnetic field at its surface. The combination of the RF waves and this magnetic field causes the hydrogen nuclei of water and other molecules in the body to respond. RF signals from these responses can then be detected and used to create the 3-D images. Unlike X-ray imaging or CAT scanning, MRI does not employ ionizing radiation and poses no inherent health risks to subjects. Springer is very pleased that this year's Nobel Prize for medicine is being shared by his former Stony Brook Chemistry colleague, Paul C. Lauterbur, who demonstrated 30 years ago that magnetic field gradients could be used to generate images in this way.
Magnetic field strengths used in MRI are measured in Teslas. For instance, a 1.5-T magnet is more powerful than a 1-T magnet, potentially providing a superior image of the body region under study. Currently OHSU has two 1.5-T MRI and two 3-T units used for clinical diagnosis. These crucial MRI machines will continue to be used. The new 3-T instrument and the future higher field systems will be utilized for basic and clinical research.
"I'm very pleased to be involved in the creation of this unique research center at OHSU," added Springer.
"The arrival of Dr. Springer on the OHSU campus marks the beginning of an extraordinary opportunity for innovative cancer imaging research at OHSU,"said Grover Bagby, M.D., the director of the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute. "Many of the clinical and research programs of the OHSU Cancer Institute are and will be collaborating with Dr. Springer, an investigator with an international reputation, to reduce the burden of cancer in our community and throughout the world."
"Under, Dr. Springer's leadership, we believe this is the beginning of a exciting and fruitful research venture that we will benefit all of us," said OHSU's Vice-President for Research Daniel Dorsa, Ph.D.
Robert Hitzemann, Ph.D., professor and chairman of behavioral neuroscience, OHSU School of Medicine
Jeri Janowsky, Ph.D., professor of behavioral neuroscience, OHSU School of Medicine
Edward Neuwelt, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology and neurological surgery, OHSU School of Medicine
Alex Stevens, Ph.D., research assistant professor of psychiatry and assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience, OHSU School of Medicine
Charles Springer, Ph.D., professor and director, Advanced Imaging Research Center