Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine is now armed with the first large-animal MRI ever at an academic institution, a move that will allow veterinarians to tackle research questions and greatly impact both animal and human health.

The magnetic resonance imaging machine, which recently became fully operational and has a 70-centimeter opening that is nearly 50 percent larger than the standard MRI, will allow doctors and researchers at the college to analyze larger animals such as horses and cows. Just as important, says diagnostic imaging section chief Anthony Pease, will be the ability to study and interpret the images they receive.

"MSU's new MRI is one of only three in the country and the first at an academic institution," Pease says. "We will be able to look critically for the first time at many animal processes." The new machine, he adds, will give veterinarians new insight into how illnesses and injuries affect animals.

"The main benefit is to look at the spinal cord and brain better than we ever have before," he says. "CT imaging has been able to provide information about bone, but now we can image muscle, brain and spinal cord without invasive procedures.

"Also, we will be able to look at how the animal brain works, how animals sense pain, and how their minds work when they sleep."

An example of a specific ailment that will be focused on is arthritis, which many animals face. Pease says for the first time, veterinarians will be able to see articular cartilage in animals to look for early signs of the crippling disease. He added the MRI will continue to give veterinarians valuable insight into treating human ailments as well.

"Everything we learn about animals, we will compare to what is known about people with the hope to treat both humans and animals with similar diseases," he says.

Construction began in January on the $2 million project, which has been in the works for four years. Now that it is operational, MSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital offers every possible imaging technique, says hospital director Pat LeBlanc.

Source: Michigan State University