After several years of work, researchers in Lund have managed to construct an instrument that ‘hyperpolarises’ the molecules and thus makes it possible to track them using MRI. The technology opens up new possibilities to study what really happens on molecular level in organs such as the brain.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an established technique which over the years has made it possible for researchers and healthcare professionals to study biological phenomena in the body without using ionising radiation, for example X-rays.
The images produced by normal MRI are, to put it simply, pictures of water in the body, since the body is largely made up of water. MRI produces images of the hydrogen nuclei in water molecules. It can also be used to study other types of nuclei in many other interesting molecules. The only problem is that the concentration of molecules that are interesting to track is so low that they are not visible on a normal MRI scan. It is this problem that the researchers have now solved by constructing a ‘polariser’.
In the polariser, the researchers make these molecules visible to the MRI scanner by hyperpolarising them. The molecules are then injected into their natural body tissue.
“Then we can follow the specific molecule and see the reactions in which it is involved. This gives us a unique opportunity to see and measure enzymatic reactions directly in the living tissue”, explains Professor Deniz Kirik.
The technology could be used to study molecules in many different types of tissue in the body. Deniz Kirik, who is a Professor of Neuroscience, will focus on developing this technology to study the brain – something which has not been done before.
“The brain is not an easy target!” he observes. “When we look inside the brain today using MRI, we see the molecules that are most numerous. However, it is rarely these common molecules we want to study. We want to study how molecules that have a low concentration in the tissue behave, for example how signal substances are produced, used and broken down. It is when these processes don’t work that we become ill.
“This technology has the potential to help us do just that. If we can make it work, it will be a breakthrough not only for neuroscience but also for other research fields such as diabetes, cancer and inflammation, where similar obstacles limit our understanding of the basic molecular processes which lead to disease.”
Professor Hindrik Mulder is one of the co-applicants for the project and he will develop and use the technology in diabetes research. Dr Vladimir Denisov from the Lund University Bioimaging Centre is leading the technical development within the project.
At present there are only a few polarisers in the world and Lund’s newly built device is the only one in Scandinavia to be fully available for academic research.
“All the other equivalent instruments are purchased commercially and come with restrictions placed by the manufacturer. We therefore chose to take the longer and more complicated route of building the instrument ourselves”, explains a pleased and proud Deniz Kirik.
Now that the instrument has become operational, the researchers have started on the first experiments.
“This is the first of two steps”, says Deniz Kirik. “The next step in this frontline research is to develop the unique technology by constructing an even more sophisticated polariser which will enable advanced experiments on animal models for various diseases.”
The project has been made possible through a grant from the Swedish Research Council and earlier grants from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research.
Contact: Deniz Kirik, +46 46 222 05 64, +46 733 82 25 86, Deniz.Kirik@med.lu.se
Megan Grindlay | idw
UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses
02.12.2016 | University of Texas at San Antonio
Earlier Alzheimer's diagnosis may be possible with new imaging compound
02.11.2016 | Washington University School of Medicine
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy