The medical device industry is experiencing rapid transformation with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The integration of digital transformation, such as artificial intelligence technology, is producing remarkable progress and creating new value when combined with existing medical devices.
Digital transformation has especially affected imaging technology, such as CT and MRI, by allowing the devices to make a faster and more accurate diagnosis.
The global market leaders driving this transformation include Siemens Healthineers, GE Healthcare, Philips, and Canon Medical.
Siemens Healthineers stands out among its competitors in the medical device industry for having its own MRI research center in Korea, where it collaborates with local medical and scientific researchers.
The center, located at Yonsei University, features MAGNETOM Vida 3T, a technology launched by the company in Korea in 2018.
Siemens Healthineers has only two MRI research facilities in Asia -- Korea and China.
While the R&D center at the MRI Factory in Shenzhen, China, is mostly for the company's own research projects, the Korean MRI research center allows external researchers to conduct research using Siemens' latest technology.
Korea Biomedical Review met with Son Yo-han, Siemens Healthineers' diagnostic imaging research collaboration team manager, to learn more about the research center in Korea and what equipment the center uses.
Question: Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Answer: I joined Siemens Healthineers as an MRI scientist after receiving a biomedical engineering master's degree from Hanyang University in 2011. Then in 2020, a new department was created at Siemens, called the diagnostic imaging research collaboration team, and I've been working there as a team leader since 2020.
Q: It seems unusual to use MRI in a research center instead of a hospital. While MRIs used in hospitals are for determining patients' health, what purpose does an MRI serve in a research center?
A: Many people usually know that MRI is used for diagnostic purposes. However, when we talk about the use of MRI at our MRI Research Center, we also conduct studies aside from diagnosing patients. This center aims to improve the quality of MRI images and research items that can be used as diagnostic aids in the future. Our center is noteworthy as we have opened our center to external researchers. We've already seen researchers who study the functional aspects of the brain, usually in the field of psychology or sociology, visit our center to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which records evidence of brain behavior, based on changes in neural activity that occur in one or more parts of the brain during human activity. fMRI can be used to study a wide range of topics in neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, and even depression. In general, cognitive experiments require subjects to perform a specific task during an fMRI scan, and the process of explaining and preparing subjects for the task before and after the scan can be done in a behavioral laboratory close to the scan room. After receiving feedback from the researchers, we've prepared the response grip, vision correction lenses, laser projector, and screen used in fMRI experiments.
Q: The center uses MAGNETOM Vida. What are some of the device's notable features?
A: MAGNETOM Vida is a 3T MRI machine equipped with advanced technologies such as BioMatrix technology, compressed sensing (CS), and simultaneous multi-slice (SMS). CS GRASP-VIBE, which includes the BioMatrix and CS technology, automatically compensates for movements caused by the patient's breathing, allowing the patient to breathe comfortably during the exam and still acquire excellent images without the inconvenience of having to hold their breath and take multiple images. The device can obtain high-quality images with less distortion, even in elderly patients, who may have difficulty communicating or holding their breath due to dementia, deafness, or other conditions. SMS is a technology that enables the fast acquisition of high-resolution images by simultaneously obtaining multiple slices at once. The device can also acquire high-quality images overall by incorporating deep learning technology.
Q: I heard that anyone who wants to conduct an MRI study could book an appointment through the company's official website. How many studies have been conducted at the center so far, and are there any notable studies?
A: Since our center opened in September of last year, we have initiated 14 studies that are being conducted either internally or by outside researchers. There are many radiology doctors who are curious about the latest technology under development by Siemens, and we've had a couple of them come in and actually put such technology into action through MAGNETOM Vida. As a result, many of the radiologists who visited our MRI Research Center actually signed a research contract with us afterward. Most recently, we held a small group meeting with doctors from the Korean Society of Abdominal Imaging, and applied the latest imaging research items from Siemens Healthineers one by one. Afterward, we held a session to discuss ideas with the researchers who attended the meeting and to receive feedback. Notably, Professor Kim Bo-hyun of the Department of Radiology at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital said that while the process of optimizing a new technology at a hospital is quite time-consuming, she was able to try it out right away and intuitively knew the pros and cons of the technology at by visiting our MRI Research Center.
Q: How does Korea's use of MRI for research purposes compare to other advanced countries such as the U.S. and China? Do you think Korea is lagging in this?
A: I don't think Korea's falling behind. There are numerous MRI research centers in both the U.S. and China, which could be attributed to the countries' large populations. With more individuals, naturally, there are more patients, and thus, a greater demand for MRIs. This subsequently leads to an increased number of researchers in the field. Despite having a smaller population, Korea still boasts four to five MRI research centers, all of which are conducting noteworthy studies. Notably, Siemens Healthineers is the only company that operates an MRI research center in Korea. While I cannot speak for other countries, I can say that within Siemens Healthineers, the MRI Research Center in Korea conducts the second-highest amount of research in Asia, following China, and ranks sixth or seventh globally. Also, the research that we do internally is all related to our headquarters. One regrettable thing is that now the perception of MRI research outside of diagnosing patients is not familiar to the public, and universities don't tell you much about this field either. So, not many people are coming to this field for employment, and I think we need to make more people aware of MRI for research use.
헬스케어의 미래를 만들어 나가는 지멘스 헬시니어스㈜는 독일 엘랑겐 (Erlangen)에 본사를 둔 혁신적인 의료기술의 선두주자로서 전 세계의 의료 서비스 제공자들이 정밀 의학을 확장하고 의료 서비스를 개선하며, 환자 경험을 향상하고 의료 서비스를 디지털화하는 방향으로 가치를 창출할 수 있도록 지원하고 있다. 지멘스 헬시니어스㈜는 차세대 의료 기술의 중심인 AI 기반 애플리케이션과 디지털 서비스를 통해 핵심 제품 및 서비스 포트폴리오를 끊임없이 혁신하고 있으며 신규 애플리케이션을 활용, 영상진단, 진단검사 서비스 등의 기반을 더욱 강화하고 있다. 또한 환자들이 더욱 효율적으로 양질의 의료서비스를 받을 수 있도록 의료 서비스 제공자에게 다양한 서비스와 솔루션을 제공하고 있다. 더 자세한 정보는 www.siemens-healthineers.com/kr 에서 확인할 수 있다.