Nano MRI flips the switch to illuminate cancerous tissue

As technology continues to become smaller, faster and smarter, a group of South Korean researchers have developed a new MRI method that uses a new contrasting agent to produce focused images.

The study, published in Nature Materials, showed the potential for the Nano MRI Lamp to illuminate cancerous tissues that may dodge MRI contrast agents. The concept, according to lead author Cheon Jinwoo with the Institute for Basic Science’s Center for Nanomedicine, is fairly simple—like flipping a light switch.

"The current contrast agent is like using a flashlight during a sunny day: Its effect is limited. Instead, this new technology is like using a flash light at night and therefore more useful," said Cheon.

The research team tested the Nano MRI Lamp for cancer diagnosis. They searched for matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), an enzyme that can induce tumor metastasis in mice with cancer. The scientists found that the brightness of the MRI signal correlated with the concentration of MMP-2 in the cancerous tissue.

According to Cheon, the researchers are working to develop safer contrast agents that can record and interpret multiple biological targets. This development could improve understanding of biological process and diagnosis of cancers.