Revolutionising cancer research with diamonds

Revolutionising cancer research with diamonds
© Matthias Weinberger - Flickr - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Using nanodiamonds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is being revolutionised in the field of cancer research. Tumour tissue can now be detected sooner and distinguished better from any healthy surrounding tissue.

Aiming to improve cancer research and the MRI procedure in the joint project DiaPol, Fraunhofer IAF and the University of Ulm, Germany, have joined together with NVision Imaging Technologies GmbH, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israeli Center for Advanced Diamond Technologies (ICDAT).

The technology offers new opportunities as the extremely precise and quick results allow for treatment of the tumour to be adjusted to each patient in a significantly more efficient way than has previously been possible.

Using MRI in cancer research

In terms of cancer, time is a critical factor and early detection and accurate diagnosis is the key to giving treatment and saving lives. Recent methods used to detect suspicious tissue have continuously become more precise with MRI being particularly gentle and efficient.

MRI works without any harmful chemicals or radioactive substances. MRI is also able to create 3D, detailed cross-sections of the human tissue.

Classical MRI uses magnetic fields to produce high-resolution images. The human body is composed of 70% water, and each molecule of water contains two hydrogen atoms with an even smaller particle called a proton, which are very sensitive to magnetic fields. The magnetic fields within these nuclei are generated by nuclear spins. The better the spins are adjusted, the stronger the signal for the MRI, meaning more accurate results.

Diamond-based polarisers

The researchers have combined the classical method with a nanodiamond polerisator for the new MRI procedure. Built-in nitrogen vacancy centres in a diamond play an important role in the innovative process, as the electron spins in these centres generate magnetic fields that can be transmitted to other nuclear spins, and thus adjust them.

This procedure hyperpolarises the nanodiamonds or external molecules. They can then be injected into the human body before the MRI scan, which significantly increases the imaging sensitivity.

Dr Verena Zürbig from Fraunhofer IAF said: “Our tasks are the diamond’s optimisation on the nanoscale and the incorporation of the nitrogen vacancy centres.

“Compared to the conventional procedure, the diamond polorisers will significantly increase the MRI’s sensitivity.”

This innovative technology enables fast analysing and shortens the time for patients waiting for results.

Source: Fraunhofer IAF

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