Accessibility statement

Putting Hyperpolarisation in a Spin

Posted on 21 November 2016

Researchers in the Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM) have discovered a new method that allows highly sensitive signals to be stored outside of a magnetic field for up to 15 minutes which could pave the way for studying biochemical reactions non-invasively in the body.

A method for the simple storage of hyperpolarised proton signals

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are two extremely important techniques which harness the magnetic properties of nuclei with applications ranging from molecular structure determination to human imaging. However, in many situations the applicability of NMR and MRI are limited by inherently poor sensitivity and insufficient nuclear spin lifetimes. To overcome these limitations the multidisciplinary team utilised the Signal Amplification by Reversible Exchange (SABRE) approach to create a magnetic resonance probe that was over 14000 times more sensitive than that typically observed on a standard hospital MRI scanner. Subsequent manipulation of the nuclear spins by radio frequency pulses allowed storage in the long lived singlet state. Importantly, this probe could then be removed from the magnetic field where it was created, stored anywhere in the laboratory before being transported back into the magnet where its strong signals can be observed. This meant that molecular probes that would be undetectable under standard conditions were still visible even 15 minutes after their creation.

This significant improvement in sensitivity and lifetime could open the door to the real-time monitoring of metabolic processes in diseases such as cancer, heart disease and neurodegeneration. A significant feature of these molecular probes are that they stable outside of strong magnetic fields which means they could be easily delivered to the patient in a clinical setting. Additionally, as this research uses proton nuclei within the probes, instead of heteronuceli such as carbon or nitrogen, any currently installed hospital MRI scanner can record these measurements which may ensure a rapid uptake of this technique.

Notes to editors:

  • This research is published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition and titled A Hyperpolarizable 1H Magnetic Resonance Probe for Signal Detection 15 Minutes after Spin Polarization Storage
  • The image shows that a long lived hyperpolarised probe can be rapidly created within an NMR spectrometer before being removed from the magnetic field where it becomes locked in a molecular "safe" - it can then be unlocked up to 15 minutes later and its highly sensitive signals recorded
  • For more information about CHyM, visit