What risks does hyperpolarization involve? Hövener
: A traditional MRI uses a native signal, meaning the signal produced by the object itself and the magnetic field. This is why we also see the entire hand when we image a hand. This is not possible with hyperpolarization: we polarize a contrast agent, which you are then able to see. Giving a contrast agent always involves risk.
However, this method has big advantages for specific applications. If you had a contrast agent for a specific tissue such as a tumor for instance, the MRI is also only going to show the tumor tissue. How else could you utilize the MRI’s potential? Hövener
: We know from chemistry and biomedicine that magnetic resonance can measure metabolism. Therefore, it is not just able to generate the well-known black and white images, but can also provide physiological and metabolic information. Imagine you wouldn’t need to remove tissue to measure values, but would be able to calculate them from the outside. This was also the hope of researchers when MRI was invented, and this method, called spectroscopy works. However, it turned out that the signal is generally too weak to measure many important diagnostic parameters. Hyperpolarization may be a method with which this early promise can be fulfilled. There is intensive research all over the world in this area. For which other areas of research could hyperpolarization by parahydrogen be relevant? Hövener
: In medicine, this procedure is not just conceivable for patient use, but also in preclinical research, for instance for research into the behavior of certain cells compared with other cells or substances. During the course of continued research it might turn out that hyperpolarization is not suited for an application with patients, but is a valuable tool for fundamental research in medicine as well as physics. That alone would be a tremendous success. Interestingly, a few days ago I was contacted by someone who wants to use hyperpolarization for soil research to measure soil properties with magnetic resonance. So many different areas would be conceivable for this application.
Read more about this topic in the original article by Dr. Hövener and his colleagues: Hövener J.-B., Schwaderlapp N., Lickert T., Duckett S.B., Mewis R.E., Highton L.A.R., Kenny S.M., Green G.G.R., Leibfritz D., Korvink J.G., Hennig J., von Elverfeldt D. A hyperpolarized equilibrium for magnetic resonance. Nature Communications, 2013.doi: 10.1038/ncomms3946