The region's first-ever magnetic resonance research centre opened its doors today, paving the way for new treatments for illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The key feature of the 5m Newcastle University Centre for Magnetic Resonance Studies is the region's first 1.8m 'super-strength' magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, which is twice as strong as those normally used in hospitals.

The 'super-scanner' will be used for hospital treatment and research projects examining conditions such as liver and heart disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer and muscular dystrophy.

It is based in the grounds of Newcastle General Hospital and will allow doctors and researchers to view activity within patients' bodies that would ordinarily only be achieved by an operation, thus helping them to understand conditions better and to develop new treatments.