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Donut Design Gives MRI Pioneer Laskaris his Just Desserts

MRI is now widely used in hospitals for medical diagnosis, staging of disease, and for follow-up examinations.

MRI is now widely used in hospitals for medical diagnosis, staging of disease, and for follow-up examinations.

It has been twenty years since the “double donut” concept was put forward for the next generation of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Since then the design has gone from strength to strength with MRI becoming widely used in hospitals for medical diagnosis, staging of disease, and for follow-up examinations.

The design refers to a magnetic resonance machine (MRI) that is open vertically, with two magnetic rings that allows physicians to stand next to the patient while conducting imaging and therapy procedures.

The design meant an operating room could be configured to enable surgeons to image the patient via an MRI scanner while the patient is undergoing surgery, particularly brain surgery. Other benefits of the system include the ability to receive real-time image updates, and the ability to scan patients positioned in a difficult or awkward position. The flexibility of the system can also be used as a platform for new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.

The machine’s origins can be traced back to a meeting between brain surgeon Dr. Ferenc Jolesz and GE engineer and medical imaging pioneer, Trifon Laskaris. Since its inception Laskaris has received a dozen patents for his work on the machine. In May this year he received his 200th U.S. patent – a feat matched only by a handful of GE inventors, including Thomas Edison.

It was only when Laskaris moved to GE Global Research (GRC) and started working on magnets and superconductivity, did his knowledge and dedication really come into its own. In 1983, a team of GRC engineers developed the world’s first full-body MRI. Laskaris helped design the machine’s 1.5 tesla magnet.

“Trifon’s work speaks for itself,” says Mark Little, Head of GE Global Research and the Company’s Chief Technology Officer. “Without his decades of dedicated research into superconducting magnets, MRI technology would not be where it is today, a mainstay of hospitals around the world.”

Currently, Laskaris is leading the technology development of next generation MRI magnets. These magnets are intended to help improve access to MRI while helping reduce cost of ownership. The end result will be greater access to cost-efficient, quality healthcare for more people living in underserved areas.

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