Who discovered MRI? And, when, how, and what are we using it for? It can be hard to fathom the complexity of such an advanced science, but it’s important to understand how it developed, what the benefits of it are and what it can do for us today.
The history of MRI technology is vast. It has a relatively complex timeline, as it was developed through contributions from multiple visionary scientists in a combination of fields, including mathematics, engineering, medicine, chemistry, computer science, and of course, physics, spanning more than 80 years.
MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging, uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to form detailed pictures of inside the human body by changing the spin of atoms. These tiny changes are detected by radio signals. MRI computers process this information and construct images of soft tissue inside the body.
The effect of the “spinning atom” is known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and it was first observed during the 1930s. However, it was not until the 1970s that we started using it for medical purposes. Once it was, it had to swiftly be renamed to “MRI” as the term “nuclear” was somewhat off-putting for patients.
The life-saving medical technique was founded on the work of Austrian physicist I. I. Rabi, who during the 1930s developed a method of measuring magnetic properties of atomic nuclei. Later, in 1946 Edward Purcell and Felix Bloch both found ways to study the magnetic resonance properties of atoms and molecules in solids and liquids, instead of just individual atoms or molecules. And, by 1973, Paul Lauterbur showed NMR could produce images!
The first images were produced in the early 1970s, and the first live human subject was imaged in 1977.
MRI technology and its uses have advanced even further in the last 15-20 years, and this can be seen in MBST (Magnetic Resonance Therapy). It was developed after patients reported reduced pain after having had an MRI scan. MBST uses the same magnetic resonance technology principles as MRI, but for healing instead of imaging.
MBST is able to treat causes of pain at the cellular level to relieve and heal symptoms as a risk-free and non-invasive therapy of pain associated with arthritis, osteoporosis or sports/accident injuries. The MR-Technology introduces energy into specific cells or cell groups in order to stimulate their regeneration. This can result in significant pain reduction, increased function of a joint and often entirely eliminating the need for surgery.
It’s amazing to think that the combination of numerous forward-thinking scientists and physicians over 80 years has led to over 60 million MRI examinations being carried out each year. Whilst the science seems complex to us, the results are not; its ability to both detect illness and treat damage through MBST, is quite simply remarkable.