New York University’s Alexej Jerschow, an assistant professor of chemistry, and Norbert Müller, a professor of chemistry at the University of Linz in Austria, have developed a completely non-invasive imaging method. Their work offers the benefits of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while eliminating patients’ exposure to irradiation and setting the stage for the creation of light, mobile MRI technology. The research, which appears in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was supported by the National Science Foundation.
MRI allows clinicians to non-invasively visualize soft tissue in the interior of the human body through the application of radiofrequency (rf) irradiation. However, the rf pulses of MRI machines deposit heat in patients and medical staff, though safety regulations that limit energy deposition have long been established. Jerschow and Müller have devised a low-energy, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technique that does not require external rf-irradiation. Their technique, instead, relies on the detection of spontaneous, proton spin-noise in a tightly coupled rf-cavity.
In order to reconstruct spin-noise images that characterize MRI, the researchers used a commercial, liquid-state NMR spectrometer equipped with a cryogenically cooled probe. The sample, a phantom of four glass capillaries filled with mixtures of water and heavy water, remained at room temperature. The authors inserted the sample into a standard NMR tube and applied a magnetic field gradient to acquire spatial encoding information. They collected 30, one-dimensional images, and after applying a projection reconstruction algorithm, obtained the phantom’s two-dimensional image. Because of its low-energy deposition, Müller and Jerschow’s imaging technique may enable new application areas for magnetic resonance microscopy. Using already-developed methods, the researchers expect expansion to three-dimensional imaging to be straightforward.
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