We are primarily focused on making images and measurements using the enzymes within living tissue, and studying how these change in disease. A recently developed method is used in which 13C-labeled biomolecules are prepared with a magnetic signal so they can be imaged using MRI. To do this, dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) is applied in order to magnetize concentrated samples of a substrate, such as13C-labeled pyruvate, and the resulting solution is injected in vivo.
This new form of MRI contrast agent exhibits a change in frequency after its molecular structure has been changed. This can occur when carbon-13 labeled substrates are metabolized by cells, allowing direct imaging of metabolic enzyme reactions in living tissue. One important question being investigated is whether this new measurement provides the oncologist with more information about aggressive cancers, visible through increased lactate signal, as well as improved treatment options by enabling focal therapy and treatment response measurements. We are also interested in the metabolic characterization of damaged heart muscle in order to detect the early stages of heart failure and select therapies, as well as metabolic characterization of cancer as a possible method for staging and for measuring response to therapy.
In addition a growing segment of the laboratory is investigating the fabrication of disposable medical devices, such as catheters and needles, that are designed to be useful in MRI-guided procedures.
This project has a strong commercialization component.