Today’s announcement of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries concerning magnetic resonance imaging honors two major scientists in the field: Drs. Paul C. Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield.
This is a wonderful example of how basic research on atoms and molecules led to an important clinical application. The ability to see inside the body in unprecedented detail revolutionized the practice of medicine. It improves diagnosis and reduces the need for surgery or other invasive procedures, underscoring how NIH-supported research translates into advances that improve medical care.
Dr. Lauterbur is a long-time NIH grantee with the majority of his funding from the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). Additional NIH support was provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS); and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
One of today’s most ubiquitous imaging tools is MRI, which provides clear images of the body’s interior — including tissues, organs and blood vessels — without the use of hazardous radiation or invasive methods. Dr. Lauterbur, using advanced technologies and instruments, helped usher MRI from its earliest beginnings nearly three decades ago into the widely used diagnostic tool now found in hospitals and research centers nationwide.
Of the 81 American Nobel laureates in physiology or medicine since 1945, 62 either worked at or were funded by the NIH before winning the prize.