UQ's cutting edge technology has expanded with the acquisition of an Australian first animal scanner system, part of a new National Imaging Facility (NIF).

Minister for Tourism, Regional Development and Industry Desley Boyle today opened the new facility at the UQ node, which will provide first-class imaging of animals, plants and materials for the Australian research community.

The UQ node will be based at the Centre for Magnetic Resonance and house the $4.5 million combined Positron Emission Tomography/Magnetic Resonance Imaging (PET/MRI) system.

By combining the two imaging models PET and MRI into one instrument a series of images can be taken without moving the subject, furthering studies into cells, organs and organisms.

This combined technology has been used in Germany and the United States, with prototype animal research systems installed in Europe and the US.

UQ Node Director Professor Ian Brereton said with National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) funding for a preclinical combined MRI/PET model, the NIF would provide access to leading-edge technology for application in molecular imaging unique in Australia.

"The principles developed in animal models to discover how systems work, and how they can be modified, can be applied in humans to study the development of living systems, the ability for the body to repair itself, and the efficacy of therapy," Professor Brereton said.

"To date this has involved complementary use of MRI and PET. In animal models, the inherent low spatial resolution of PET makes it extremely difficult to align PET and MRI images acquired in separate instruments."

Professor Brereton said the new combined instrument would give Australia direct input into emerging technology and provide an opportunity for further training in electronics and engineering at the cutting edge.

The preclinical PET/MRI model is one of five new instruments scattered at other nodes including: The University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney, The University of New South Wales, Large Animal Research & Imaging Facility (South Australia), Florey Neuroscience Institutes (Victoria) and Monash University.

Other instruments include: Research Cyclotron ($2.1 million); 1.5T MRI ($1.5 million); Micro Animal PET ($800,000); and 9.4T Scanner ($3.5 million).

National Imaging Facility Director of Operations Professor Graham Galloway said PET/MRI was instrumental in the understanding of biological processes.

Professor Galloway said the NIF provided opportunities for the wider scientific community to access top imaging equipment.

"The NCRIS program has funded both the hardware and the expertise necessary to make full use of these facilities and introduce students to this emerging technology," he said.

"Imaging is a key enabling technology that underpins research outcomes across a broad spectrum of bioscience from neuroscience to biomaterials and nanotechnology.

"In the Queensland setting, the NIF is facilitating research within the major State-funded biotechnology institutes - the Queensland Brain Institute, Institute for Molecular Biosciences and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology."

NIF is one of four projects applied as part of the (NCRIS) Characterisation Capability and included Commonwealth and State Government contributions as well as institution funding of which UQ contributed the largest amount of $1,637,500.

The University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia

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