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Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to MRI Pioneers - 2003-10-06

Paul Lauterbur of the United States and Peter Mansfield of Britain have won the 2003 Nobel Prize for medicine for their discoveries in the field of magnetic resonance imaging. Sweden's Karolinska Institute says the two men's work represents a breakthrough in medical diagnostics and research.

Magnetic resonance imaging is a routine procedure used by doctors to examine patients without having to conduct invasive surgery. MRI, as it is known, thus reduces risk and discomfort for many patients. It is especially useful for detailed study of the brain and the spinal cord.

The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute, which awards the medicine prize, says what it calls the seminal discoveries of Drs. Lauterbur and Mansfield facilitated the use of magnetic resonance as a means of visualizing different structures in the human body.

It says Dr. Lauterbur discovered that introduction of gradients in the magnetic field made it possible to create two-dimensional images of structures that could not be visualized by other techniques.

The assembly says Dr. Mansfield further developed that discovery, showing how signals emitted by the body in response to the magnetic field could be mathematically analyzed and rapidly transformed into an image. That, says the assembly, led to the adoption of MRI in clinical practice.

The prize shared by the two men includes a check for $1.3 million.

The medicine award kicks off a week of Nobel prizes that culminates on Friday when the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded.

The physics prize will be announced on Tuesday and the chemistry and economics prizes will be announced on Wednesday.

South African writer J.M. Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature last week.