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Detection at a distance for more sensitive MRI

BERKELEY, CA -- Alexander Pines and his colleagues have discovered a remarkable new way to improve the versatility and sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the technology upon which it is based, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).

Pines, a pioneering NMR researcher, is Faculty Senior Scientist in the Materials Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Glenn T. Seaborg Professor of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. The latest details of the new technique, known as remote detection, are reported by Pines, postdoctoral fellow Song-I Han, and doctoral candidate Juliette A. Seeley in the "Journal of Magnetic Resonance."

Remote detection depends on physically separating the two basic steps of NMR, signal encoding and detection -- normally carried out in the same instrument -- in order to customize each step for the best results. Using laser-polarized xenon gas as the medium for "remembering" the encoded information and carrying it to the remote detection site, Pines and his group have achieved orders-of-magnitude improvement in MRI image resolution, plus manifold increases in NMR sensitivity. "NMR encoding is exceptional at recovering chemical, biological, and physical information from samples, including living organisms, without disrupting them," says Pines, noting that MRI, a closely related technology, is equally adept at nondestructively picturing the insides of things. "The problem with this versatile technique is low sensitivity."

"However," says Han, "by separating the encoding and detection phases of NMR/MRI, we can gain data about physical, chemical, and biological properties of samples that we simply could not have gotten previously."

The conceptual foundation and feasibility of remote detection were earlier established in Pines's laboratory by Adam Moul, Megan Spence, Kimberly Pierce, and Sunil Saxena, in addition to Han and Seeley. The group reported their result
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Contact: Paul Preuss
paul_preuss@lbl.gov
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
15-Mar-2004


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