Adding color to the MRI world

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Manjula Puthenedam, PhD, Associate Editor

A new class of contrast agents using iron nanostructures looks to add color to the world of MRI. Li Sun, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering in University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering, has received a three year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop this new class of MRI contrast agents.

“Currently, MRIs are in black and white. If you use one of the existing contrast agents, you only adjust the gray scale, which makes the bright parts of the image brighter and the dark parts darker. These new nanostructures will allow you to use different colors to identify each type of tissue,” Sun said.

Producing easier-to-read MRI images is not the only use for these new nanostructures. Individual cells could be tagged with the nanostrucutures and then tracked in the human body and nanostructures could be heated with a high-frequency magnetic field, killing the cancer cells but leaving nearby healthy cells intact, Sun said.

Purdue University researchers also have used nanotechnology to assess whether cancer drugs hit their targets, which can help in reducing drug side effects. Drug-conjugated nanopolymers were used in combination with mass spectrometric analysis to identify drug targets in vitro and in living cells in the study.

Nanotechnology-enabled image-guided methods could be used for detection, diagnosis and therapy in clinics. This has triggered the recent fundings for nanomedicine projects--a European Union project would validate platforms in the treatment of pancreatic cancer; a French project would improve the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease; and a Canadian project would develop methods to diagnose and treat lung cancer and vascular diseases.

Stay tuned! On these topics, or others, please feel free to contact me.

Manjula Puthenedam, PhD
Associate Editor, Molecular Imaging Insight