Sir William Castell opens new MRI centre at the University of York

A new centre for magnetic resonance imaging is being opened at the University of York today by Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust.

Sir William will unveil a plaque at the new Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance Imaging and give a public lecture on the importance of engineering in medicine. The £7 million purpose-built facility is developing technology that could increase the sensitivity of hospital magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans by up to 200,000 times, enabling improvements in the detection of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

The new technique, known as signal amplification by reversible exchange (SABRE), means that chemical analysis that once took 90 days to record can now be obtained in just five seconds, and detailed MRI images can be collected in seconds rather than hours. It could improve diagnoses and detection in many areas of medicine, including cancer treatment, cardiovascular conditions and neurodegenerative conditions.

The research is being supported by a Strategic Award from the Wellcome Trust. Professor Simon Duckett from the University's Department of Chemistry is leading the research, alongside Professor Gary Green from the York Neuroimaging Centre.

Professor Duckett said: "The new technique we are developing here at York means that patients who once had to wait days or even weeks for scans to be completed and interpreted can, in some cases, now be diagnosed in hours, allowing earlier treatment for serious illness."

Professor Green said: "The technique will bring significant benefits to diagnosis and treatment in many areas of medicine and surgery, ranging from cancer diagnosis to orthopaedics and trauma. It could ultimately replace current clinical imaging technologies that depend on the use of radioactive substances or heavy metal-based contrast."

More than 30 research scientists work at the new centre, which includes a chemical laboratory and state-of-the-art research instrumentation.

The project has gained more than £12 million investment from the Wellcome Trust and the Wolfson Foundation, Bruker Biospin, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the University. It combines the world-class expertise of research scientists from the University's departments of Chemistry, Psychology and Biology, as well as the Hull York Medical School.