Research highlight

Imaging: A sensitive new imaging technique


September 29, 2016

A new imaging and spectroscopy technique that combines the best features of magnetic resonance and gamma-ray imaging is demonstrated in this week’s Nature. Although some features, such as the processing speed, need improvements, the approach may form a basis for developing a new class of medical diagnostic tools.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a valuable diagnostic tool in the field of medicine, owing to its excellent spatial resolution - that is, the ability to distinguish individual features in an image. Gamma-ray detectors are highly sensitive and can be used to detect tiny quantities of radioactive tracers that can pinpoint specific targets of interest. Gordon Cates, Wilson Miller and colleagues devise a new technique that uses magnetic resonance to gather spatial information and collects image information by the detection of gamma-rays. They demonstrate the feasibility of this technique by imaging radioactive atoms in a glass cell and note that conventional MRI would require billions more atoms to generate an image.

It took around 60 hours to acquire data for the example image, which is not ideal for clinical applications. However, the authors suggest that increasing the size of the detectors or the amount of radioactive tracer could help to overcome these issues, and propose that their technique could be useful for the study of both biological and non-biological systems.

doi: 10.1038/nature19775

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