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Small animal imaging facility is big boon to research
Date:8/30/2007

When powerful magnets line up the bodys protons before radiofrequency waves can grab their attention away, its called spin physics.

When signals generated by the movement are mathematically transformed into dramatic images of hearts, lungs and other organs its called a magnetic resonance image. Protons normally would be pointing in many different directions, says Dr. Tom Hu, director of the Small Animal Imaging Program at the Medical College of Georgia. But if you put an object in the MRI, the magnet will line up the protons and what that does is generate the original, steady state. Then, by applying different radio frequencies, pretty much like what you do with a car antenna, you can pursue radio frequencies to perturb the system and you pretty much listen to it.

When Dr. Hu, a biochemist and biophysicist, tunes in he sees how calcium moves in and out of heart cells as the heart contracts and relaxes and how that movement doesnt work so well in heart failure, a condition resulting in oversized hearts with difficulty beating.

Hes looking at whether the metallic manganese ion, which can travel in the same circles as calcium, can enhance the signal and subsequent images he gets of how calcium cant get back into cells after a heart attack. Once its disturbed, the cells die and the myocardium dies and you have scar formation, says Dr. Hu whose ultimate goals include better ways to diagnose and treat heart failure, an increasingly common problem in the United States where improved cardiac treatment means many people are living with their heart disease. Not only can you look at a living organ, you can also study the molecular aspects of this like the calcium ion, says Dr. Hu who came to MCG in 2005 to start the Small Imaging Program in support of research initiatives, such as his, that have clinical promise.

The MRI that is the programs centerpiece looks like the human version except the cylinder the patient lies in
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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