Molecular MRI

Magnetic resonance medical imaging, founded on the principles of nuclear magnetic resonance, creates a picture of the NMR signal in a narrow slice through the human body. Images taken sequentially create a 3D image of anatomical structures. Magnetic resonance medical imaging is the preferred analytical tool for examining the nervous system and evaluating soft tissue.

Molecular magnetic resonance medical imaging brings the level of visualization and analysis to the cellular and molecular level. At this level, it’s doable to track and evaluate cellular functions that can provide never-before-available insight into the nature of the disease process. For example, scientists have long known about the connection between inflammation and heart disease. Yet, the medical imaging tools to measure inflammation related to the heart haven’t been accessible at a fine enough level of measurement to entirely explore the relationship.

The January 16, 2007 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences printed a study by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York that uses molecular MRI medical imaging to get insight into the relationship between inflammation and heart disease. Researchers developed a synthetic material, gadoliniumdiethyltriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA), that’s able to discover and attach to white blood cells imbedded in arterial walls. The DPTA allowed mMRI medical imaging visualization of the WBC’s, they could actually count the number of cells and assess how stable they are. Researchers discovered a correlation between the amount of white cells imbedded in the arterial walls and the likelihood of later heart attack. The initial research was done on mice. Additional research will soon be performed on bigger mammals and if it is successful, the research will move to human clinical trials. The search for better, more efficient and more specific medical imaging tagging media is the most popular new field of research in molecular magnetic resonance medical imaging. Recently, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley have given their report on research relating to a new medical imaging method for molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that can detect molecules ten thousand times lower concentrations than regular MRI techniques. The technique, called HYPER-CEST, for hyperpolarized xenon chemical exchange saturation transfer, hyperpolarizes atoms with laser light to enhance their MRI signal, then puts the atoms into a nanoscale cage biosensor which is made specific for a individual protein target. This medical imaging technique is expected to be extremely useful in identifying cancer cells at the earliest stages of cancer.

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