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Research Imaging Center to acquire $2.6 million MRI system

San Antonio (March 21, 2003) — The Research Imaging Center (RIC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio soon will obtain a $2.6 million, high-field magnetic resonance imaging system to solidify its place among the world's leading research imaging centers. RIC faculty have generated more than 100 publications in the leading peer-reviewed journals in the field — findings that have implications for stuttering, epilepsy, depression, memory, learning, appetite and involuntary functions. The journals include Nature and Science.

The Research Imaging Center captured a highly competitive, $1.6 million equipment grant from the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "The previous MRI machine was very productive, but we need a new state-of-the-art scanner to keep us at the top of research in this field," said Jia-Hong Gao, Ph.D., principal investigator on the NIH grant. Dr. Gao is associate professor and chief of the MRI division at the RIC.

In addition to NIH funds, a special appropriation from Congress to the Texas Diabetes Institute is providing $1 million toward the purchase of the new MRI scanner. Announcing the support were Theresa De La Haya, University Health System vice president of the Texas Diabetes Institute, and Ralph A. DeFronzo, M.D., Health Science Center professor of medicine and deputy director of the diabetes institute. Health Science Center physicians see patients and conduct research studies at the institute, which is a facility of the University Health System.

During a Feb. 26 conference call, The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously approved the purchase of the new system, which is 3 Tesla in strength. "This machine will be 70,000 times more powerful than the earth's magnetic field," Dr. Gao said. "This is the highest magnetic field strength approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for clinical scans, although ours will be used primarily for research."

Research Imaging Center faculty will use the new MRI scanner to further their studies of brain function. The Texas Diabetes Institute researchers will use the device to study heart/circulation abnormalities and metabolic defects in liver and muscle in diabetic patients.

Peter T. Fox, M.D., director of the RIC and the newly funded Imaging Core of the Frederic Bartter General Clinical Research Center, said: "The high-field MRI makes an outstanding addition to the capabilities of the Research Imaging Center and the Imaging Core. Although funding was obtained by the RIC and the Texas Diabetes Institute, researchers from any fields can apply for access via the General Clinical Research Center." The General Clinical Research Center is a collaboration of the Health Science Center, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System and the NIH.

Contact: Will Sansom