Scientists from the University of Virginia have developed a novel imaging technique that blends aspects of magnetic resonance imaging with gamma-ray imaging. The physicists who created the technique call it polarized nuclear imaging.
“This method makes possible a truly new, absolutely different class of medical diagnostics,” said physicist Wilson Miller in a news release. “We’re combining the advantages of using highly detectable nuclear tracers with the spectral sensitivity and diagnostic power of MRI techniques.”
According to the news release, the technique could provide a new, relatively inexpensive way to visualize the gas space of the lungs by having patients inhale a gas containing the isotopes and using PNI to produce an image. The method likewise might work to image targeted areas of the body by injecting isotopes into the bloodstream. Because the technique would use such small quantities of tracer material, when it comes to medical use, the radioactivity would pose little to no danger to people.
A study published in the journal Nature details how the team developed its concept and includes the first-ever published image using polarized nuclear imaging.
The technique has potential for high-resolution medical diagnostics as well as some industrial applications.