A group of scientists from the University Medical Center Freiburg, the German Cancer Consortium, and other sites have achieved a significant advancement in live observation of the body’s metabolic processes.
They’ve developed a method to safely, quickly, and inexpensively alter naturally occurring molecules in the body, making them more visible in MRI scans.
This method is particularly important for personalized cancer diagnosis.
The Power of Metabolic MRI
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) works by detecting the magnetic properties of molecules. A technique called hyperpolarization amplifies these properties for a short time, resulting in a much stronger signal than usual.
This allows scientists to non-invasively observe metabolic processes. Dr. Andreas Schmidt, the lead investigator of the study, said that this advancement “allows us to observe cancer metabolism in real time, opening up entirely new perspectives for personalized cancer medicine.”
The safety of this new approach is also notable. The procedure is radiation-free and only takes a few minutes. This is particularly beneficial for patients who need regular check-ups.
How They Did It: Two Key Achievements
The team’s study marks two major milestones:
Creation of Highly Polarized Pyruvate: The scientists succeeded in producing highly polarized pyruvate in a safe, water-based solution. Pyruvate is a molecule commonly found in the body and plays a vital role in central metabolic processes.
The team used an innovative method known as Signal Amplification By Reversible Exchange (SABRE) to enhance the pyruvate signal.
This new process can produce highly sensitive biological contrast agents in just a few minutes, at a low cost, and without any chemical changes.
This is a massive improvement over older methods, which took about an hour or more and were technically challenging.
Successful Demonstration in an Animal Model: Using the newly developed biological contrast agents, the scientists were able to show the conversion of pyruvate into lactate and alanine in an animal model.
These conversions in energy metabolism have been identified as useful diagnostic markers in previous studies.
What This Means for the Future of Cancer Diagnostics
This research brings a powerful tool to the field of cancer diagnostics. It offers a safe, quick, and affordable method to observe cancer metabolism in real time.
This breakthrough could potentially pave the way for personalized treatment plans based on each patient’s unique metabolic processes.
With further development and clinical trials, this method might change the way doctors diagnose and treat cancer in the future.
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The study was published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
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