Hyperpolarizer – Quantum Cancer Imaging

A team of researchers is working to advance the development of a quantum-based hyperpolarizer for use in clinical settings. The goal is to significantly improve MRI imaging of metabolic processes, allowing for earlier and more accurate tumor detection.

Metabolic imaging with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is possible. Until now, signal amplification technologies have been prohibitively expensive, insufficiently robust, or slow. A quantum hyperpolarizer employs quantum physical laws to increase the signal of metabolic molecules in an MRI by 100,000-fold.

Common MRI machine technology uses quantum mechanical properties of atomic nuclei associated with spin or angular momentum. Each nuclear spin generates a magnetic moment, similar to a compass needle’s dipole magnet.

To accomplish this, MRI employs extremely powerful magnetic fields. Despite this, the magnetic moments of the nuclear spins are nearly randomly distributed, resulting in a low effective magnetization. The hyperpolarizer technique increases the effective magnetization of nuclear spins by a factor of 10,000 to 100,000, significantly increasing the sensitivity of MRI.

The researchers use this method to hyperpolarize important molecules for studying metabolic processes. Pyruvate, a metabolic product that tumors convert to lactic acid, is particularly useful for diagnostic purposes. The project aims to improve this technology to be used on a large scale in clinical settings.

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