Discovery Square at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota New technology, novel methods

Dr. Pipe's Magnetic Resonance Technology and Use Design Laboratory, housed in Discovery Square on Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, drives advances in magnetic resonance design and finds ways to produce better images with existing MRI technology.


The Magnetic Resonance Technology and Use Design Laboratory of James G. Pipe, Ph.D., at Mayo Clinic is pursuing a long-range plan to greatly improve MRI scanners to deliver better images for improved patient outcomes and better user experiences for technologists and patients.

The lab's research is carried with an integrative mindset, keeping in mind the role of MRI in reducing overall health care costs. To accomplish its research goals, Dr. Pipe's research team is collaboratively designing a comprehensive set of technologies for rapid, spiral-based MRI and developing a next-generation MRI scanner and innovative approaches for its use.

Technological improvements

The core focus of the Magnetic Resonance Technology and Use Design Laboratory is on developing infrastructure to use spiral MRI — a "fast-MRI" method with inherent high signal-to-noise ratio efficiency. This feature keeps images from being noisy (grainy) when scan times are reduced, as happens with most other fast-MRI methods.

The challenge of spiral MRI is its sensitivity to small deviations in the applied magnetic fields, which has kept this 30-year-old technology from being widely adopted. Dr. Pipe's lab measures and predicts these field deviations and develops technology to eliminate their negative impact on images. With these obstacles resolved, spiral MRI will make most clinical scans four to eight times faster than they are today.

Along with spiral MRI, the Magnetic Resonance Technology and Use Design Laboratory is developing other clinical magnetic resonance innovations and incorporating outside technological developments that are clinically impactful. Many of these new developments can be further improved when integrated with spiral MRI. The goals of this integration are to improve the quality, reliability and reproducibility of images and information and to collect new types of data that have real, positive clinical impact.

User experience improvements for patients and technologists

Dr. Pipe's research team is building technology that minimizes demands on technologists' attention to the scanner, allowing them to focus on their patients instead. Such a shift will result in a better patient experience, better technologist experience, improved safety, faster exams and more consistent image quality.

The lab is also working on a variety of other innovations to improve the patient experience, reduce the anxiety of receiving an MRI scan and improve the patient's sense of empowerment.

Innovation in the diagnostic use of MRI

A high-level goal of Dr. Pipe's Magnetic Resonance Technology and Use Design Laboratory is to remove the barriers of cost, availability, complexity and aggravation from MRI, allowing it to be used whenever it is the best diagnostic test, not as the "imaging of last resort," as is often the case today.

Dr. Pipe's lab engages with radiologists, clinicians and other experts to rethink the nature and use of MRI and consider how to best leverage this powerful technology for optimal use in specific clinical contexts.

Combining improved speed with more intelligent exam design may lead to more personalized scanning, which could use information to tailor exams prior to scanning and — possibly with the help of artificial intelligence — use information from initial scans during the course of an exam to dynamically tailor subsequent procedures in the same exam.

About Dr. Pipe

Dr. Pipe is the director of the Magnetic Resonance Technology Use and Design Lab at Mayo Clinic and a professor of radiology in Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. His research focuses on developing MRI methods that have a real, positive impact on patient care.

He is best known for his invention of periodically rotated overlapping parallel lines with enhanced reconstruction (PROPELLER), a method designed to eliminate the blurring that results when patients move during MRI scans. This technology is now available on nearly all commercial scanners.

Dr. Pipe continues to establish the underpinnings for many next-generation methods, such as spiral MRI, with a goal of greatly reducing exam times while increasing the information available for patient care.

He is an advocate for combining technology design with "use design" to improve patient care, address the financial challenges of global health care, and improve patients' experience and empowerment.

Dr. Pipe is an actively involved member and Fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM), the global society dedicated to research and innovation in clinical magnetic resonance. He chaired ISMRM's 2012 annual meeting in Melbourne, Australia, and six international workshops and served as the organization's president in 2015 and 2016. This involvement has given him a broad perspective of the field of magnetic resonance in medicine and the biosciences worldwide.