Researchers cheer as AIIMS clears animal MRI facility

Hospitals look forward to upgradation and purchase of new diagnostic equipment. But this addition to AIIMS is going to be different,one that already has the scientific community cheering — a new 7 Tesla MRI scanner for research on animals,a tool that’s expected by July.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi | Published: April 10, 2012 2:59 am

Hospitals look forward to upgradation and purchase of new diagnostic equipment. But this addition to AIIMS is going to be different,one that already has the scientific community cheering — a new 7 Tesla MRI scanner for research on animals,a tool that’s expected by July.

Meant for AIIMS internal users and researchers from other institutes and pharmaceutical companies,the animal MRI facility will be installed at the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) department.

Dr N R Jagannathan,Head of Department of the NMR,said: “Research in developing new drugs in diseases which are still to be understood completely — cancer,and neurological problems like multiple sclerosis and strokes — is advancing at a phenomenal pace. MRI can be a very strong and practical tool in pre-clinical trials on animals for these diseases.”

The Rs 950-lakh project was approved by the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) of AIIMS last month.

According to the proposal submitted to the committee,the departments of pharmacology,biochemistry,neurosurgery,cardiology and cardio-radiology will be using the facility for studying structural,biochemical and metabolic changes in animals in different diseases.

“Animal trials carried out for optimisation of techniques for delivery,detection and monitoring of tagged cells,genes and drugs through MRI would go a long way in aiding cancer therapy,gene therapy and establishment of drug delivery,” the proposal stated.

Under MRI,changes in the structure of hydrogen bonds in soft tissues of different organs can be observed at a micro level.

Structurally same as the “regular” MRI used for humans,the machine will be available strictly after clearances from animal ethics committee of institutes. The tool obliterates many of the problems associated with “conventional” animal research.

“When we use conventional research models on animals,one group is taken as control and other as experiment,thus involving double the number of animals. If we wish to study the progression of a disease,we need multiple sub groups of animals within the experimental arm,” Dr Jagannathan said.

In contrast,a single group of animals can be used for both control and experimental arms on research via MRI. “Through MRI,we can observe the changes in soft tissues of the body,before and after the onset of a disease,and its successive progression within the same set of animals. So,we do not have to sacrifice as many animals as in conventional research,” he said.

That the imaging is done through a non-invasive,completely radiation-free technology through an external magnet is an added benefit for animals under experimentation.

The set-up will be opened to external users on a rental basis. Though the rent amount is still being finalised,it is estimated at Rs 1,000 per hour for academic institutions and Rs 5,000 per hour for pharmaceutical companies.

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