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New MRI technology to provide even better images of the inside of the human body
Date:12/7/2012

ed atoms for MRI, although in this case they need to be introduced into the body. In the 1990s, Werner Heil and the Mainz physicist Ernst-Wilhelm Otten developed a procedure in which the noble gas helium-3 is polarized by lasers. This polarized gas can be inhaled and provides high-resolution tomographic images of the lungs so that pulmonary disorders can be identified even in the very smallest of the bronchi. Taking this as their starting point, the scientists involved would like to improve the technology even further.

"However, the laser-induced polarization of noble gases alone is not sufficient for our purposes," explains Heil. In addition to helium, it is also possible in principle to polarize xenon, another noble gas. However, its anesthetic effect means that its suitability for use in medical diagnostics is limited. The use of brand new substances as markers, such as polarized carbon-13, would open up new options for diagnosticians: Biological molecules and substances could be labeled by means of hyperpolarization so that their passage through the body could be directly monitored. Heil expects that it may also be possible to observe dynamic processes on the molecular level, such as certain metabolic processes.

At the same time, it is still necessary to overcome various obstacles before practical implementation can be considered. Except in the case of helium, it is not possible to maintain hyperpolarization over relevant periods. "This means we have to abbreviate the processes of polarization, administration, and detection so they can all be performed in no more than a minute at most," states Heil. Moreover, getting the hyperpolarized substances into the bloodstream without harming the body is difficult. In an attempt to resolve this problem, the research team is working with membranes, such as those used in heart-lung machines or for dialysis. "We also need to separate the reaction chamber from the treatment room," explains Dr. Peter Blmler,
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Contact: Werner Heil
wheil@uni-mainz.de
49-613-139-22885
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz
Source:Eurekalert

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