Research Areas

Hyperpolarization is a new and emerging field to achieve enhancement of signal over 30,000-100,000 times what is currently available. Our current research utilizes a method of hyperpolarization termed parahydrogen induced polarization (PHIP) to transfer the polarization from the parahydrogen nuclei to a 13-carbon or 15-nitrogen nucleus with a slower signal decay allowing for in vivo studies. We are developing the next generation of instrumentation to bring this technology into the mainstream research environment.

Our research is focused on chemical and technological difficulties of enacting a fast chemical addition of parahydrogen and the radiofrequency pulses required to convert the nuclear orientation of the two hydrogen nuclei in parahydrogen into an alignment in the third adjacent nuclei. Research in this area has already produce two promising molecules. Hyperpolarized succinate can be used to probe the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle for research into metabolic diseases like diabetes and cancer. Hyperpolarized TFPP, tetrafluoroproply 1-13C-propionate, has been developed as a marker to detect fat and is currently being investigated for detecting atherosclerotic plaque.

Parahydrogen Induced Polarization Instrumentation Development

Our group is focusing on correcting the shortcoming of current instrumentation. PHIP instrumentation requires precise control of the hydrogenation reaction and the transfer of polarization to third nuclei. We are designing and constructing accurate and stable current supplies to produce the low homogeneous magnetic field required for the process. We are designing compact equipment that can be utilized next to imagers without the need to site expensive magnets. The objective of our research is to produce equipment that can be built for less than $15K.

Silicon Particle Biomarkers

One of the most difficult aspects of utilizing magnet resonance imaging is quantification of dynamic processes. The signal (water) observed usually is in constant exchange with nearby tissue. We are developing technology in collaboration with other research groups to polarize silicon nanoparticles. Such particles when polarized can be directly imaged by acquiring the 29-silicon magnetic resonance signal. The end goal of this research to target the particles by modifying the surface. Unlike most other nuclei, silicon crystals in the particle have very long relaxation times which will allow us to image the particle up to 3 hours after injecting them. This provides sufficient time for the particles to reach the target. This work is done in collaboration with the Medina-Kauwe Laboratory.