Electrical engineer Arjun Arunachalam, 38, believes his dream of building a new, fast, portable magnetic resonance imaging scanner is moving close to fruition, after a decade of effort punctuated by periods of frustration.
His prototype scanner, assembled on the first floor of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Bangalore, now awaits human trials in which doctors will compare its images with those from standard MRI scanners.
Radiologists who have watched the scanner take shape have been told the device could be prepared for use in only two hours to provide on-site MRI scans, currently unavailable to people in small towns and villages.
Doctors familiar with commercial MRI scanners, which take a week to be made functional if fully turned off, find the two-hour switch-on feature the prototype promises fascinating.
For, this translates into portability, making the device a mobile MRI scanner. And as important as this mobility, they say, is the speed at which the prototype generates images, which is three to four times faster than the fastest scanners in the market.
“When I first heard about it, I thought it was impossible,” said Bhavana Nagabhushana Reddy, a radiologist at the Sathya Sai Institute.
“We’ve always viewed MRI machines as stationary, not something that could be driven from one place to another.”
Imaging specialists say the prototype, if proved as reliable as commercial scanners, represents a potentially disruptive technology for the existing MRI industry.