Issue Date: February 23, 2009
MRI Breathing Room
A redesign of standard MRI instruments by scientists in Switzerland has made the diagnostic tools less of a tight squeeze for patients and could broaden nuclear magnetic resonance's analytical capabilities (Nature 2009, 457, 994). Magnetic resonance instruments use pulses of radio-frequency (RF) waves to glean information from magnetized nuclei in samples of interest. The samples must be very close to the RF detector for conventional techniques to work, which means there is limited space inside the bore of the magnet for patients undergoing an MRI scan. Roomier options such as open MRI scanners are available, but they usually use weak magnetic fields and produce poorer images. Now, a team led by Klaas P. Pruessmann of the University of Zürich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, has designed an MRI instrument that excites and detects protons from farther away. The team replaced the stationary RF fields used in traditional machines with "traveling" RF waves emanating from an antenna and guided by a conductive lining inside the bore of the magnet. Traveling waves make certain MRI scans over large areas more uniform, which could permit high-throughput NMR spectroscopy of large numbers of vials at a time, Pruessmann says.
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