Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New MRI technology to provide even better images of the inside of the human body

29.11.2012
German Federal Ministry of Education and Research earmarks EUR 1.3 million to develop magnetic resonance imaging using polarized substances

Over the past 30 years, magnetic resonance imaging has evolved into one of the most important imaging procedures in medical diagnostics. With a new approach based on the use of polarized gases and dissolved substances, it will in future be possible to produce even better quality images of the inside of the human body.


Xenon polarizer

photo/©: Institute of Physics / JGU

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will be providing EUR 1.3 million over the next three years to enable researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research to make the new procedure ready for the market.

A team of researchers led by Professor Dr. Werner Heil at JGU's Institute of Physics is working on a technology that is still in its infancy, but which has the potential for major innovation. The project entitled "Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Using Innovative Hyperpolarized Contrast Agents" will commence in December 2012. It will be funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of its high-tech strategy "Validating the Innovation Potential of Scientific Research – VIP." This strategy is designed to provide support to researchers in making the crucial first steps to adapt new scientific findings for commercial applications.

Nuclear spin tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as it is more commonly known, provides highly detailed images of organs and tissues without exposing the patient to potentially harmful radiation. The drawback of this method, however, is its low sensitivity, which is currently being improved mainly through the use of ever stronger and more expensive magnets. During the project, the Mainz scientists will be taking a different approach with the aim of obtaining more accurate images and, consequently, new perspectives on diagnosing illnesses.

Normally, the body's endogenous hydrogen protons are used as signal generators for the purpose of MRI. But it is also possible to use hyperpolarized atoms for MRI, although in this case they need to be introduced into the body. In the 1990s, Werner Heil and the Mainz physicist Ernst-Wilhelm Otten developed a procedure in which the noble gas helium-3 is polarized by lasers. This polarized gas can be inhaled and provides high-resolution tomographic images of the lungs so that pulmonary disorders can be identified even in the very smallest of the bronchi. Taking this as their starting point, the scientists involved would like to improve the technology even further.

"However, the laser-induced polarization of noble gases alone is not sufficient for our purposes," explains Heil. In addition to helium, it is also possible in principle to polarize xenon, another noble gas. However, its anesthetic effect means that its suitability for use in medical diagnostics is limited. The use of brand new substances as markers, such as polarized carbon-13, would open up new options for diagnosticians: Biological molecules and substances could be labeled by means of hyperpolarization so that their passage through the body could be directly monitored. Heil expects that it may also be possible to observe dynamic processes on the molecular level, such as certain metabolic processes.

At the same time, it is still necessary to overcome various obstacles before practical implementation can be considered. Except in the case of helium, it is not possible to maintain hyperpolarization over relevant periods. "This means we have to abbreviate the processes of polarization, administration, and detection so they can all be performed in no more than a minute at most," states Heil. Moreover, getting the hyperpolarized substances into the bloodstream without harming the body is difficult. In an attempt to resolve this problem, the research team is working with membranes, such as those used in heart-lung machines or for dialysis. "We also need to separate the reaction chamber from the treatment room," explains Dr. Peter Blümler, who is focusing on this aspect. "Perhaps we will also need several membranes to ensure that only the correct substances enter the blood." However, it seems that a solution to another problem may have already been found. While the polarization of helium or xenon can be achieved with lasers, Dr. Kerstin Münnemann of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research has shown in her widely acclaimed work that it is possible to induce magnetic polarization in other substances by means of reaction with parahydrogen. The three scientists intend to combine their expertise to create novel diagnostic procedures at the point where physics, chemistry, and medicine intersect.

Petra Giegerich | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/15917_ENG_HTML.php
http://www.ag-heil.physik.uni-mainz.de/

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht A laser for your eyes
18.04.2016 | Lomonosov Moscow State University

nachricht New technology for examining cardiovascular blood vessels
14.04.2016 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny microbots that can clean up water

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.

Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...

Im Focus: ORNL researchers discover new state of water molecule

Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...

Im Focus: Bionic Lightweight Design researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute at Hannover Messe 2016

Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid

Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...

Im Focus: New world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes.

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin glass is up and coming

As one of the leading R&D partners in the development of surface technologies and organic electronics, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP will be exhibiting its recent achievements in vacuum coating of ultra-thin glass at SVC TechCon 2016 (Booth 846), taking place in Indianapolis / USA from May 9 – 13.

Fraunhofer FEP is an experienced partner for technological developments, known for testing the limits of new materials and for optimization of those materials...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The “AC21 International Forum 2016” is About to Begin

27.04.2016 | Event News

Soft switching combines efficiency and improved electro-magnetic compatibility

15.04.2016 | Event News

Grid-Supportive Buildings Give Boost to Renewable Energy Integration

12.04.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary systems

29.04.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Fiber optic biosensor-integrated microfluidic chip to detect glucose levels

29.04.2016 | Health and Medicine

A cell senses its own curves: New research from the MBL Whitman Center

29.04.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>