Tuesday, 8 October 2013

New type of Imaging technique: Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) could assess a tumour’s response to treatment in real time

It’s the next step in a series of technological developments: first came nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, a technology that can be used to detect chemicals in tumours – unfortunately, the signal intensity from standard NMR spectroscopy is too small to monitor reactions in real time. Researchers therefore develop a technique called dynamic nuclear polarization NMR (DNP-NMR), which boosts the NMR signal by up to 10,000 times, enough to allow the rates of chemical reactions to be measured – however, because it relies on computer modeling of the particular reaction being studied before use, it is a complicated and time-consuming process.

This new technique, designed to simplify the process and give it wider applications, is a mathematical model that works by comparing the intensity ratios of the chemicals being studied (called the area under the curve, AUC), therefore forgoing the need for complex models.

The researchers tested their 
new DNP-NMR technique by injecting the metabolic compound pyruvate into cancer cells and watching as it was rapidly catalysed to form lactate. The new AUC ratio accurately measured the levels of pyruvate and lactate, showing a very strong correlation to the reaction rate calculated by the old modelling method. When they then added a drug to block the signalling pathway that controls the pyruvate to lactate exchange, they saw a drop in the AUC ratio equivalent to the decrease in the reaction rate calculated from the old model.

The hope is that by making the analysis more straightforward, it would allow the san to be used more widely by doctors in the future to help them assess how well a treatment is working.

Press release: http://bit.ly/1fX27zc