Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 


Team Creates MRI for the Nanoscale

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reveals details of living tissues, diseased organs and tumors inside the body without x-rays or surgery.

What if the same technology could peer down to the level of atoms? Doctors could make visual diagnoses of a person’s molecules – examining damage on a strand of DNA, watching molecules misfold, or identifying a cancer cell by the proteins on its surface.

Now Dr. Carlos Meriles, associate professor of physics at The City College of New York, and an international team of researchers at the University of Stuttgart and elsewhere have opened the door for nanoscale MRI. They used tiny defects in diamonds to sense the magnetic resonance of molecules. They reported their results in the February 1 issue of Science.

“It is bringing MRI to a level comparable to an atomic force microscope,” said Professor Meriles, referring to the device that traces the contours of atoms or tugs on a molecule to measure its strength. A nanoscale MRI could display how a molecule moves without touching it.

“Standard MRI typically gets to a resolution of 100 microns,” about the width of a human hair, said Professor Meriles. “With extraordinary effort,” he said, “it can get down to about 10 microns” – the width of a couple of blood cells. Nanoscale MRI would have a resolution 1,000 to 10,000 times better.

To try to pick up magnetic resonance on such a small scale, the team took advantage of the spin of protons in an atom, a property usually used to investigate quantum computing. In particular, they used minute imperfections in diamonds.

Diamonds are crystals made up almost entirely of carbon atoms. When a nitrogen atom lodges next to a spot where a carbon atom is missing, however, it creates a defect known as a nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center.

“These imperfections turn out to have a spin – like a little compass – and have some remarkable properties,” noted Professor Meriles. In the last few years, researchers realized that these NV centers could serve as very sensitive sensors. They can pick up the magnetic resonance of nearby atoms in a cell, for example. But unlike the atoms in a cell, the NVs shine when a light is directed at them, signaling what their spin is. If you illuminate it with green light it flashes red back.

“It is a form of what is called optically detected magnetic resonance,” he said. Like a hiker flashing Morse code on a hillside, the sensor “sends back flashes to say it is alive and well.”

“The NV can also be thought of as an atomic magnet. You can manipulate the spin of that atomic magnet just like you do with MRI by applying a radio frequency or radio pulses,” Professor Meriles explained. The NV responds. Shine a green light at it when the spin is pointing up and it will respond with brighter red light. A down spin gives a dimmer red light.

Professor Mireles has written on the theoretical underpinnings of the work and proposed the the project to the team, led by Professor Jörg Wrachtrup — a physicist at the University of Stuttgart in Germany — with the assistance of postdoctoral researcher Friedemann Reinhard and collaborators from the University of Bochum and the University of Science and Technology of China. Professor Wrachtrup heads a leading group studying such defects.

In the lab, graduate student Tobias Staudacher — the first author in this work — used NVs that had been created just below the diamond’s surface by bombarding it with nitrogen atoms. The team detected magnetic resonance within a film of organic material applied to the surface, just as one might examine a thin film of cells or tissue.

“Ultimately,” said Professor Meriles, “One will use a nitrogen-vacancy mounted on the tip of an atomic force microscope – or an array of NVs distributed on the diamond surface – to allow a scanning view of a cell, for example, to probe nuclear spins with a resolution down to a nanometer or perhaps better.”


T. Staudacher, et al. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy on a (5-Nanometer)3 Sample Volume, Science, 1 February 2013: 561 563. [DOI:10.1126/science.1231675

Jessa Netting | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm
23.03.2018 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics

nachricht Drug or duplicate?
23.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Festkörperphysik IAF

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Weltraumbeobachtung mit Radar zur Sicherheit der Weltrauminfrastruktur für Deutschland

Immer mehr Weltraummüll gefährdet die Satelliten im erdnahen Orbit. Ihre Aufgaben in den Bereichen Telekommunikation, Navigation oder Wettervorhersage sind jedoch essentiell für unsere Gesellschaft. Das Fraunhofer FHR entwickelt deshalb radarbasierte Systeme, mit denen auch kleinste Trümmerteile detektiert, nachverfolgt und katalogisiert werden können. Mit hochpräzisen Bahndaten möglichst vieler dieser Objekte können Satellitenbetreiber Ausweichmanöver besser planen und zerstörerische Kollisionen vermeiden. Das Fraunhofer FHR stellt zusammen mit seinen Partnern vom 25.-29.4.2018 Messe ILA Berlin die komplementären Radarsysteme TIRA und GESTRA zur Weltraumbeobachtung vor.

Die »Verkehrssituation« im All ist angespannt: Neben unzähligen Satelliten umkreisen Weltraumtrümmer wie zum Beispiel ausgebrannte Raketenstufen und...

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Forscher entdecken neues Anti-Krebs-Protein

Ein internationales Forscherteam hat ein neues Anti-Krebs-Protein entdeckt. Das Protein namens LHPP verhindert, dass sich Krebszellen in der Leber ungebremst vermehren. Zudem eignet es sich als Biomarker für die Diagnose und Prognose von Leberzellkrebs. Dies berichten Forscher unter der Leitung von Prof. Michael N. Hall vom Biozentrum der Universität Basel in «Nature».

Die Häufigkeit von Leberkrebs, auch bekannt als Leberzellkarzinom, nimmt stetig zu. In der Schweiz hat sich die Zahl der Erkrankungen in den letzten zwanzig...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: LifeTime – ein visionärer Vorschlag für ein EU-Flagschiff

Zuverlässig vorherzusagen, wann eine Krankheit ausbricht oder wie sie verläuft, erscheint wie ein Traum. Ein europäisches Konsortium will ihn Wirklichkeit werden lassen und dabei vor allem neue Technologien der Einzelzellbiologie nutzen. Führende Forscherinnen und Forscher haben daher einen Antrag für ein FET-Flagschiff mit dem Namen LifeTime eingereicht.

Nachdem das Humangenomprojekt 2001 abgeschlossen war, haben Wissenschaft und Medien das Genom als „Buch des Lebens“ bezeichnet. Darin könne man nachlesen, wie...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>



Industrie & Wirtschaft

Internationales Meeting zu Neuroakanthozytose-Syndromen

23.03.2018 | Veranstaltungen

Hightech-Implantate sind Thema beim 12. COMPAMED Frühjahrsforum

23.03.2018 | Veranstaltungen

Hybrid-elektrisch angetriebene Verkehrsflugzeuge – Zukunft oder Fiktion?

20.03.2018 | Veranstaltungen

Wissenschaft & Forschung
Weitere VideoLinks im Überblick >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Gashydratforschung: Erweitertes Grundwissen und neue Technologien

23.03.2018 | Geowissenschaften

Japanischer Teilchenbeschleuniger SuperKEKB startet durch

23.03.2018 | Physik Astronomie

Medikament oder Plagiat?

23.03.2018 | Physik Astronomie

Weitere B2B-VideoLinks
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics