31. May 2018

Project at HYPERMAG aims to ensure the spread of new, fast scanning method at hospitals

The latest issue of the Danish magazine Medicoteknik writes about the DNRF center HYPERMAG’s new research project, which aims to pave the way for the use of so-called hyperpolarized MR scanning at hospitals and thereby to ensure much faster scan results in, for instance, cancer patients.

UV-light is used to activate the magnetism. Here, frozen balls of the bio-probe in liquid nitrogen are illuminated.
UV-light is used to activate the magnetism. Here, frozen balls of the bio-probe in liquid nitrogen are illuminated. (Photo: Andrea Capozzi og Christine P. Gunnarsson)

At the DNRF Center for Hyperpolarization in Magnetic Resonance (HYPERMAG), the head of center Jan Henrik Ardenkjær-Larsen and colleagues have just launched a new project called Spin Bank.

The latest edition of the Danish health science magazine Medicoteknik contains an article about the project, which is also supported by the Independent Research Fund Denmark and aims to pave the way for easier access to much more accurate MR scan results at hospitals. (A link to the article in Danish can be found at the bottom of the page.)

The Spin Bank’s main purpose is to make so-called hyperpolarization in connection with MR scans cheaper and more easily accessible to hospital staff. The method can provide scanning results up to 20,000 times more accurate than traditional scanning and will allow medical staff to follow cancer cells’ reaction to chemotherapy much faster. Today, you typically have to wait up to several months before you can see whether treatment has been effective.

However, the method currently has the disadvantage that a polarization device needs to be close to the MR scanner during a scan. Using a powerful magnetic field, the device changes – hyperpolarizes – the magnetism of the bio-probe injected into the patient before scanning. The hyperpolarized signal is short- lived so the bio-probe must be injected into the patient immediately after it has been hyperpolarized. Today, there are fewer than 10 machines for this type of hyperpolarization in the world.

To get around the problem that a polarization device needs to be close to every individual MR scanner, the researchers at HYPERMAG aim to use new knowledge in the field to develop a method whereby the electrons spin and thereby the magnetism in the bio-probe can be switched on and off. In this way, the bio-probe can be prepared for use at a centralized polarization device and subsequently stored and transported.

“Economically, it will be of great importance for the healthcare system to be able to have only one centrally located device that can supply hyperpolarized bio-probes for MR scanners at several hospitals. It makes the scan more flexible and easier to use for the hospital staff when you can control when the contrast agent is going to be active,” said Jan Henrik Ardenkjær-Larsen, who is also one of the inventors of hyperpolarization, to Medicoteknik.

Denmark is already a front-runner in the field, and two of the existing polarization devices are at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen and at Skejby Sygehus in Aarhus. Both hospitals work closely together with HYPERMAG, and in 2017, Skejby Sygehus was the first hospital allowed to use hyperpolarized MR on cancer patients.

Read more about HYPERMAG and the project in Medicoteknik here (in Danish)

More information can be found at HYPERMAG’s home page here (in Danish)

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