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  • Fuel Improves Medical Imaging
Mar 2009
HESLINGTON, UK, March 26, 2009 – A new technology that dramatically improves the sensitivity of magnetic resonance techniques, including those used by hospital scanners and in chemistry laboratories, has been developed by scientists at the University of York.

Ultimately, the technique, which is based on manipulating parahydrogen (the fuel of the space shuttle), is expected to allow doctors to learn far more than previously from an MRI scan about a patient’s medical conditions, and at a lower cost.

Researchers have taken parahydrogen and, through a reversible interaction with a specially designed molecular scaffold, transferred its magnetism to a range of molecules. The resulting molecules are much more easily detected than was previously possible. According to the researchers, no one has been able to use parahydrogen in this way before.

“Our method has the potential to help doctors make faster and more accurate diagnoses in a wide range of medical conditions,” said Gary Green, psychology professor and director of the York Neuroimaging Centre. “The technique ultimately could replace current clinical imaging technologies that depend on the use of radioactive substances or heavy metals, which themselves create health concerns.”

The new method also will have major implications for scientific research because it radically reduces the time taken to obtain results using nuclear magnetic resonance technology, the most popular method for obtaining analytical and structural information in chemistry.

“We have been able to increase sensitivity in NMR by over 1000 times, so data that once took 90 days to record can now be obtained in just five seconds. Similarly, an MRI image can now be collected in a fraction of a second rather than over 100 hours,” said Simon Duckett, chemistry professor and director of the Centre for Magnetic Resonance. “This development opens up the possibility of using NMR techniques to better understand the fundamental functions of biological systems.”

“This technological advance has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility and application of high-quality medical imaging to patients,” added Ian Greer, professor and dean of the Hull York Medical School. “It will bring significant benefits to diagnosis and treatment in virtually all areas of medicine and surgery, ranging from cancer diagnosis to orthopedics and trauma. It illustrates the enormous success of combining high-quality basic science with clinical application.”

Bruker BioSpin has been one of the first collaborators in developing this technology for commercial use.

“This technology has the potential to revolutionize both NMR and MRI methods in a short space of time,” said Tonio Gianotti, director and International NMR Research and Development coordinator for Bruker BioSpin.

Mark Mortimer, director of the university’s Research and Enterprise Office, added, “The rapid development of this research from the chemistry bench through to measurement opens up many exciting possibilities to extend this work. The York research team is now seeking partners to help turn this groundbreaking research into commercial and medical applications.”

To see video details of parahydrogen-based hyperpolarization methods, click here.

Audio of professors Duckett and Green discussing the new technique can be found here.

For more information, visit:

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