Researchers announce the birth of a new imaging modality

Physicists at the University of Virginia have developed and proven out the concept of a new imaging modality. What they’re calling “polarized nuclear imaging” (PNI) combines MRI with gamma-ray imaging to produce visuals of radioactive isotopes polarized by lasers.

In a study published the last week of September in Nature, the researchers state this is the first time MRI has been used together with radioactive tracers to produce useful imaging data. Their hope is that the combo will enable medical imagers to acquire new, heretofore unavailable kinds of diagnostic insights.  

For example, the technique might offer a relatively inexpensive way to image gas spaces in the lungs.

In an article covering the breakthrough, UVA Today quotes study co-author Gordon Cates, PhD, as saying the successful proof-of-principle research represents the potential for gaining “an enormous increase in imaging sensitivity” and a way to “dramatically reduce the amount of material needed for performing magnetic-resonance techniques.”

To this radiology researcher Wilson Miller, PhD, adds:

“There was once a first x-ray image, and a first CT-scan image and a first MRI image. We have now produced the first image of a new technology, PNI, which someday may be as much in use as those others.”

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