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October 2, 2013

Nanoscale Resolution MRI Has Been Experimentally Achieved



nanoscale imaging

 Imaging
A team of researchers has devised a novel nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that delivers a roughly 10­ nanometer spatial resolution. This represents a significant advance in MRI sensitivity—with the highest-resolution experimental instruments giving spatial resolution of a few micrometers.






R esearchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University has devised a novel nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that delivers a roughly 10­ nanometer spatial resolution. This represents a significant advance in MRI sensitivity—modern MRI techniques commonly used in medical imaging yield spatial resolutions on the millimeter length scale, with the highest-resolution experimental instruments giving spatial resolution of a few micrometers.

The research results have been published in the journal Physical Review.

“This is a very promising experimental result,” said physicist Raffi Budakian, who led the research effort. “Our approach brings MRI one step closer in its eventual progress toward atomic-scale imaging.”

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MRI is used widely in clinical practice to distinguish pathologic tissue from normal tissue. It is noninvasive and harmless to the patient, using strong magnetic fields and non-ionizing electromagnetic fields in the radio frequency range, unlike CT scans and tradiational X-rays, which both use more harmful ionizing radiation.

MRI uses static and time-dependent magnetic fields to detect the collective response of large ensembles of nuclear spins from molecules localized within millimeter-scale volumes in the body. Increasing the detection resolution from the millimeter to nanometer range would be a technological dream come true.

The team’s breakthrough—the new technique introduces two unique components to overcome obstacles to applying classic pulsed magnetic resonance techniques in nanoscale systems. First, a novel protocol for spin manipulation applies periodic radio-frequency magnetic field pulses to encode temporal correlations in the statistical polarization of nuclear spins in the sample. Second, a nanoscale metal constriction focuses current, generating intense magnetic field-pulses.

In their proof-of-principal demonstration, the team used an ultrasensitive magnetic resonance sensor based on a silicon nanowire oscillator to reconstruct a two-dimensional projection image of the proton density in a polystyrene sample at nanoscale spatial resolution.

“We expect this new technique to become a paradigm for nanoscale magnetic-resonance imaging and spectroscopy into the future,” added Budakian. “It is compatible with and can be incorporated into existing conventional MRI technologies.”

Undeniably the impact of this technology on neuroscience, for projects like the BRAIN Initiative and other areas of medicine will be immense.  At the resolutions discussed, the new MRI techniques may also further allow in vivo creation of the connectome.


SOURCE  University of Illinois

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