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Multidisciplinary Center for Biomolecular Imaging Formed At Wake Forest Baptist

Winston-Salem, N.C. – A new Center for Biomolecular Imaging at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center will enhance imaging research.

"We have been on the leading edge of clinical imaging since the 1950s, and I expect this new center to put us among the top academic centers in imaging research," said William Applegate, M.D., dean of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in announcing creation of the center and the appointment of Kerry M. Link, M.D., as center director.

"The center leadership has taken steps to ensure that our institution has the newest and best state-of-the-art equipment available, as well as prototype equipment provided by industry," said Link, professor of radiologic sciences. "The wide array of technologies at the center facilitates multimodality research and cutting-edge pilot studies, giving the institution a competitive edge in the pursuit of grant awards and providing opportunities for researchers to become involved in technology development."

Among the more than $10 million worth of new equipment are:

  • A new research Computed Tomography (CT), more powerful than clinical CT scanners. "The scanner is the most sophisticated CT scanner made to date by General Electric Medical Systems," said Link. It can acquire an entire scan of the human body in just 20 seconds, while a patient is holding his breath.

  • A 1.5 Tesla research Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner already running near capacity with research studies, joining the five clinical MRI scanners. Researchers can use it to localize the parts of the brain that are responsible for specific tasks.

  • A 7 Tesla Micro-MRI scanner for small animals, which will produce a magnetic force that it is 140,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field. It will enable detailed snapshots of metabolic pathways in the living animal, perhaps leading to earlier diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseases.

  • A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner for research on people and animals, similar to the clinical PET scanner, and a MicroPET for small animals. Among research under way are projects in esophageal cancer, lung trauma, aging, depression, prostate cancer.

The various imaging tools work by different methods. The CT scanner uses X-rays; the PET scanner uses radioactive isotopes; and the MRI uses magnetic force.

New powerful research computer work stations process the mountains of data generated by the imaging machines. One such computer image is of the arterial tree of the heart, with tiny white patches indicating precisely where calcium has deposited in the coronary arteries; perhaps pointing the way for intervention. Or the computer can produce a three-dimensional picture of the whole heart that looks like a model, with the coronary arteries snaking along the surface.

"The center was created in part to provide both basic science and clinical researchers with the imaging facilities needed for their ongoing investigations," said Link. "The remarkable advances in imaging technologies have had a major impact on clinical medicine and, arguably, an even greater impact on basic science and clinical research."

The new Wake Forest Baptist center is multidisciplinary and multi-departmental, involving clinicians in a range of specialties outside radiology as well as most of the basic science departments.

"This is a joint venture in collaboration with the Department of Radiology and its chair, Allen D. Elster, M.D.," Applegate said.

Part of the center’s grants are expected to come from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the newest NIH institute.

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Media Contacts: Robert Conn, rconn@wfubmc.edu; Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu; or Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, at 336-716-4587.

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