MRI sensitivity enhanced 10,000 times with newly created molecular catalyst

03/29/2016 - 04:51

Kara Manke

Duke University researchers have taken a major step towards realizing a new form of MRI that could record biochemical reactions in the body as they happen.

In the March 25 issue of Science Advances, they report the discovery of a new class of molecular tags that enhance MRI signals by 10,000-fold and generate detectable signals that last over an hour. The tags are biocompatible and inexpensive to produce, paving the way for widespread use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor metabolic processes of conditions like cancer and heart disease in real time.


Ref: Direct and cost-efficient hyperpolarization of long-lived nuclear spin states on universal 15N2-diazirine molecular tags. Science Advances (25 March 25 2016) | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501438 | PDF (Open Access)


Conventional magnetic resonance (MR) faces serious sensitivity limitations which can be overcome by hyperpolarization methods, but the most common method (dynamic nuclear polarization) is complex and expensive, and applications are limited by short spin lifetimes (typically seconds) of biologically relevant molecules. We use a recently developed method, SABRE-SHEATH, to directly hyperpolarize 15N2 magnetization and long-lived 15N2 singlet spin order, with signal decay time constants of 5.8 and 23 minutes, respectively. We find >10,000-fold enhancements generating detectable nuclear MR signals that last for over an hour. 15N2-diazirines represent a class of particularly promising and versatile molecular tags, and can be incorporated into a wide range of biomolecules without significantly altering molecular function.