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New instrument helps researchers see how diseases start and develop in minute detail
Date:10/21/2011

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an established technique which over the years has made it possible for researchers and healthcare professionals to study biological phenomena in the body without using ionising radiation, for example X-rays.

The images produced by normal MRI are, to put it simply, pictures of water in the body, since the body is largely made up of water. MRI produces images of the hydrogen nuclei in water molecules. It can also be used to study other types of nuclei in many other interesting molecules. The only problem is that the concentration of molecules that are interesting to track is so low that they are not visible on a normal MRI scan. It is this problem that the researchers have now solved by constructing a 'polariser'.

In the polariser, the researchers make these molecules visible to the MRI scanner by hyperpolarising them. The molecules are then injected into their natural body tissue.

"Then we can follow the specific molecule and see the reactions in which it is involved. This gives us a unique opportunity to see and measure enzymatic reactions directly in the living tissue", explains Professor Deniz Kirik.

The technology could be used to study molecules in many different types of tissue in the body. Deniz Kirik, who is a Professor of Neuroscience, will focus on developing this technology to study the brain something which has not been done before.

"The brain is not an easy target!" he observes. "When we look inside the brain today using MRI, we see the molecules that are most numerous. However, it is rarely these common molecules we want to study. We want to study how molecules that have a low concentration in the tissue behave, for example how signal substances are produced, used and broken down. It is when these processes don't work that we become ill.

"This technology has the potential to help us do just that. If we can make it work, it will be a breakthrough not only for
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Contact: Deniz Kirik
Deniz.Kirik@med.lu.se
46-733-822-586
Lund University
Source:Eurekalert

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