Magnetic Resonance Imaging - History


In 1952, Herman Carr produced a one-dimensional MRI image as reported in his Harvard PhD thesis. In the Soviet Union, Vladislav Ivanov filed (in 1960) a document with the USSR State Committee for Inventions and Discovery at Leningrad for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging device, although this was not approved until the 1970s.

In a 1971 paper in the journal Science, Dr. Raymond Damadian, an Armenian-American physician, scientist, and professor at the Downstate Medical Center State University of New York (SUNY), reported that tumors and normal tissue can be distinguished in vivo by nuclear magnetic resonance ("NMR"). He suggested that these differences could be used to diagnose cancer, though later research would find that these differences, while real, are too variable for diagnostic purposes. Damadian's initial methods were flawed for practical use, relying on a point-by-point scan of the entire body and using relaxation rates, which turned out to not be an effective indicator of cancerous tissue. While researching the analytical properties of magnetic resonance, Damadian created the world's first magnetic resonance imaging machine in 1972. He filed the first patent for an MRI machine, U.S. patent #3,789,832 on March 17, 1972, which was later issued to him on February 5, 1974. As the National Science Foundation notes, "The patent included the idea of using NMR to 'scan' the human body to locate cancerous tissue." However, it did not describe a method for generating pictures from such a scan or precisely how such a scan might be done. Meanwhile, Paul Lauterbur expanded on Carr's technique and developed a way to generate the first MRI images, in 2D and 3D, using gradients. In 1973, Lauterbur published the first nuclear magnetic resonance image. and the first cross-sectional image of a living mouse was published in January 1974.

At the University of Nottingham, England, Peter Mansfield, a physicist and professor at the university, then developed a mathematical technique that would allow scans to take seconds rather than hours and produce clearer images than Lauterbur had. Damadian along with Larry Minkoff and Michael Goldsmith, subsequently went on to perform the first MRI body scan of a human being on July 3, 1977. These studies performed on humans were published in 1977. In 1979 Richard S. Likes filed patent *4,307,343. In 1980 Paul Bottomley joined the GE Research Center in Schenectady NY. They ordered the biggest magnet available–a 1.5T system–and built the first high-field whole-body MRI/MRS scanner, overcoming problems of coil design, RF penetration and signal-to-noise. The results translated into the highly-successful 1.5T MRI product-line of well over 20,000 systems today. Bottomley did the first localized MRS in human heart and brain. After starting a collaboration on heart applications with Robert Weiss at Johns Hopkins, Bottomley returned to the university in 1994, as Russell Morgan Professor and Director of the MR Research Division. Although MRI is most commonly performed at 1.5T, higher fields (such as 3T) are gaining more popularity due to the increased sensitivity and resolution. In research laboratories, human studies have been performed at up to 9.4T and animal studies have been performed at up to 21.1T

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