01 Apr 2009   |   News

York: New technique enhances sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging

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Scientists at York University have developed a new technology which they claim dramatically improves the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging.

The technique, based on manipulating parahydrogen, is expected to produce better images at lower cost while increasing the range of medical conditions that can be examined.

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.

Gary Green, from the Department of Psychology and Director of the

York Neuroimaging Centre, said the method has the potential to enable faster and more accurate diagnoses in a wide range of medical conditions. The technique could ultimately replace current clinical imaging technologies that depend on the use of radioisotopes.

The new method will also have major implications for scientific research because it  reduces the time taken to obtain results using nuclear magnetic resonance technology to analyse molecular structures.

Simon Duckett, from the university's Department of Chemistry and Director of the Centre for Magnetic Resonance, said, “We have been able to increase sensitivity in NMR by over 1,000 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.”

Bruker BioSpin is collaborating in developing this technology for commercial use in NMR. Tonio Gianotti, Director and International NMR Research and Development Coordinator for Bruker BioSpin, said, “This technology has the potential to revolutionise both NMR and MRI methods in a short space of time.”

The university is looking for other partners to develop further applications. Mark Mortimer, Director of the university’s Research and Enterprise Office, said, “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 are now seeking partners to help turn this groundbreaking research into commercial and medical applications.”

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