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Letter from the editor | 229

Help for the living

A magnetic resonance imaging machine that will be launched into service at the University of São Paulo’s School of Medicine (FM-USP) in April will be added incentive for anyone studying human health. This new tool provides an extraordinarily detailed and sensitive view of the body’s structure and functioning. Medical researchers are delighted with the range of possibilities opened up to scientific research by the MRI machine, which will be used mainly on cadavers.

The Magnetom 7T MRI is installed in the Imaging Platform in the Autopsy Room (PISA), a laboratory that was constructed in the basement of USP’s medical school. It is the first full-body magnetic resonance imaging machine in Latin America with field strength of 7 Tesla, which produces better images than conventional machines. At first blush, it might seem strange that the machine has not yet been approved for clinical use. In fact, research on cadavers is exactly the step needed to advance scientific knowledge related to human health. The machine will improve diagnostic imaging techniques, lead to new approaches to the study of disease, allow for minimally invasive autopsies, and update medical instruction on different topics.

The city of São Paulo conducts 14,000 autopsies annually on people who died of natural causes, making the Death Certification Service of the City of São Paulo (SVOC) the largest agency of its kind in the world. USP manages the SVOC. The Magnetom 7T MRI is being acquired at a propitious time for cadaver research,  whose main goal is to understand the living human organism. Fabrício Marques’ article (page 14) relates in detail all of the most important  potential uses of the machine and each step in the delicate process of installing it in the medical school’s basement.

I want to highlight two more articles in this edition. In difficult moments, we often hear – as a sort of consolation – that in the ashes of adversity, lies opportunity. In the case of the water crisis currently affecting states in the Southeast, this saying rings true, at least for irrigation. Independent research from the three São Paulo state universities and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation Information Technology Center in Campinas has shown that household wastewater can be treated for use in irrigation in fields as an alternative because it reduces the need to remove clean water from reservoirs and does not waste fertilizers. Evanildo da Silveira reports (page 64) on how this collaborative research was conducted and how important it has become given that 72% of Brazil’s water is used for irrigating fields.

I also want to spotlight the coincidence in this issue involving this month’s interviewee and an article on one of his recent publications. Carlos Fioravanti interviewed chemist Etelvino Bechara (page 22) and, when the text had already been finalized, Bechara notified him that the February 19 edition of Science would contain one of his scientific articles. In the study featured in the article, Bechara and one of his PhD students, Camila Mano, in collaboration with foreign researchers, showed how DNA could be damaged more than three hours after direct exposure to sunlight. Fioravanti asked for a copy of the article and also wrote about it (page 62). The timing was perfect for a full service delivery: the interview on the scientist’s career path and coverage of his most recent research.