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Better MRI
A new method of modifying molecules could improve ­medical imaging

Source: “Reversible interactions with para-hydrogen enhance NMR sensitivity by polarization transfer”
Simon B. Duckett et al.
Science
323: 1708-1711

Results: A novel method of modifying the magnetic properties of molecules, developed by researchers at the University of York, in the United Kingdom, makes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) a thousand times more sensitive. The technique provides a way to use a broad range of drugs and antibodies to label specific tissues for medical imaging.

Why it matters: If proved safe and effective in humans, the new technique would lead to new diagnostic and treatment applications for MRI. An antibody designed to stick to a tumor could be used for cancer screening, for example.

Methods: Researchers have known that hydrogenation reactions can be used to modify molecules with a form of hydrogen called para­hydrogen, which changes their magnetic properties in a way that greatly improves MRI results. But this process works with only a few types of molecules. The researchers developed a way to temporarily link the parahydrogen to various organic molecules using an intermediary chemical complex, without causing them to undergo any chemical change. They showed that the process enhances the magnetic signal of a variety of organic molecules, including chemicals widely used in making pharmaceuticals.

Next steps: The researchers aim to use the technique to perform MRI scans on animals later this year.

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Credit: Dutton Lab

Tagged: Biomedicine

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