Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

One of the major problems with magnetic resonance imaging machines is the huge magnetic fields required to make them work and the giant superconducting magnets that generate them. These magnets usually have a field strength of around 1.5 Tesla although some designs can reach 9 T or more. That makes them expensive. So expensive, in fact, that the cost of rest of the machine is chickenfeed in comparison.

So in recent years, various groups have looked at creating images with ultra low fields of just a few tens of microteslas.

Normally, the huge magnetic field is necessary to make protons in water molecules inside the body line up. Zapping these protons with radio waves knocks them out of kilter and as they realign themselves, the protons emit radio waves that can be used to construct an image.

Ultra low field MRI gets around the need for huge magnets by using a new generation of superconducting quantum interference devices or SQUIDS to pick up the signals used to reconstruct an image.

Now Vadim Zotev and buddies at the Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico have another trick up their sleeve. One of the many astounding things that magnetic resonance imaging can do is track the changing presence of carbon-13 in the body. That’s important because it shows the body’s metabolism in action so researchers can see how diseases such as cancer and diabetes change the way it functions.

Here’s the trick. Instead of using a magnetic field to align the carbon-13 nuclei inside the body, they use a technique called dynamic nuclear polarisation to align the carbon nuclei before they are injected into the body.

That should make ultra low field MRI images of metabolism in action even easier to make and paves the way for real time videos of the metabolism at work using this kind of technique

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0911.1137: Toward Microtesla MRI of Hyperpolarized Carbon-13 for Real-Time Metabolic Imaging

2 comments. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me