Unlocking potential for next-generation medical scanning

Researchers at University of York have developed a new way to magnetise molecules in the human body, paving the way for a new generation of low-cost magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The technology would transform the ability to diagnose and treat diseases including cancer, diabetes and dementia. It could enable doctors to personalize life-saving medial treatments, with real-time imaging being used in operating theatres and GP practices.

The research project was funded by an initial capital investment of £8.9 million to create the York Neuroimaging Centre and the Centre for Magnetic Resonance. This was matched by £5.5 million from the university’s quality-related (QR) funding for ongoing staffing costs.


(Picture credit: by Liz West via Flickr)

The new technique involves transferring a magnetic form of hydrogen gas into various molecules that occur in the body. The researchers can then ‘hyperpolarise’ these substances, such as glucose, and this means they wouldn’t require the type of superconducting magnet used in machines today. Smaller, cheaper magnets – or even the Earth’s magnetic field – would be sufficient to create the image a doctor needs to diagnose conditions.

The research can also be used in the developing world where there may not be the power supply or infrastructure to use the current scanner.


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