University of York scientists seem to have come upon a method of increasing the signal quality in magnetic resonance machines by a thousand fold. The technique transfers the magnetism of parahydrogen molecules to other molecules within the object studied, greatly increasing their visibility under MR.
The York team explains:
We have used parahydrogen to study inorganic reaction mechanisms for many years. Others have used it to polarise organic materials which have recently found use in MRI studies. However, both these approaches require the addition of parahydrogen to the molecule that is to be observed. Consequently, they involve the chemical functionalisation of materials and require the accessibility of a suitable unsaturated precursor. This marks a substantial limitation of the parahydrogen approach.
Our new technique, Signal Amplification By Reversible Exchange (SABRE), achieves a similar result without any chemical change being necessary. The SABRE method delivers a proven 1000-fold increase in sensitivity. This 1000-fold signal gain means that NMR measurements which would have previously taken months can now be completed in seconds.
Explanation of SABRE technology with videos showing the technique
University of York press release: Transforming medical diagnosis with new scanning technology
Abstract in Science: Reversible Interactions with para-Hydrogen Enhance NMR Sensitivity by Polarization Transfer
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Image: Top: Schematic representation of the SABRE method. The polarisation (represented by the orange colouring) is transferred from parahydrogen to a substrate which can then be seen by NMR and MRI. Side: An MRI of a one-centimeter-wide tube containing smaller tubes covered with pyridine. The pyridine has been polarized making the small tubes much more visible. Credit: University of York