Molecules in the body more visible in new detection system

Posted on 4 April 2017

Scientists in the Department of Chemistry have developed a technique that will enhance the performance of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in identifying disease.

The long term goal is to be able to apply the diagnostic technique in hospitals around the world

MRI and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) are two of the most important techniques used in identifying simple molecules and complex materials and provide valuable information about how they behave.

Applications in the diagnosis of a range of diseases, from cancerous tumours to heart disease are particularly important.  These technologies work by detecting the magnetic dipoles of nuclei, but in a typical hospital scanner, they effectively only detect one molecule in every 200,000. This makes it difficult in medical diagnostics to see the full picture of what is happening in the body.

Scientists compare the process to heating a room with a radiator, where it is only working at part of its strength, heating only a portion of the room, with the remainder in the cold.  If a ‘thermostat’ can be found to turn up the heat, however, more of the room is reached and the right temperature is maintained throughout.

Read the full story here.

Notes to editors:

You can read the paper Delivering Strong ^1 H Nuclear Hyperpolarization Levels and Long Magnetic Lifetimes through Signal Amplification by Reversible Exchang at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/04/03/1620457114.abstract?sid=b38ae56f-0c75-42d3-8283-d89f48a4812f