Clifford R. Bowers, PhD; Austin Evans; Charlie Khemtong; Glenn Walter | University of Florida
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Awardee Year: 2023
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive, non-ionizing imaging technology that is a critical tool towards maintaining health longevity. However, the broad usefulness of this technique is constrained by its inherently low sensitivity and high operational complexity. Clinical MRI is restricted mainly to the observation of protons in water, the most concentrated chemical species in the body, while the much weaker carbon-13 signatures of metabolites present at much lower concentrations remain undetectable. We will exploit parahydrogen, a metastable form of dihydrogen that exists in an entangled quantum state, as an inexpensive generator of 13C MRI sensitivity enhancement. This will allow fluxes of key metabolites to be imaged, affording a superior approach to disease diagnosis and treatment monitoring. Our objective is to create a portable and inexpensive platform, termed HyperReact, to generate hyperpolarized 13C contrast agents for in-vivo MRI. HyperReact will combine flow-chemistry with state-of-the-art spin order transfer techniques developed in our lab to rapidly synthesize, purify, and deliver 13C-hyperpolarized pyruvate, a critical metabolic substrate whose metabolic fate is oftentimes altered in many diseases including cancer. HyperReact enabled MRI will be validated in a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NAFLD & NASH) mouse model using the small animal MRI facilities at the National High Magnetic Field Lab. HyperReact will also enable clinical MRI in low-field magnets instead of the complex and expensive superconducting magnets required for conventional MRI. By overcoming the sensitivity problem of conventional MRI, HyperReact will transform and democratize access to this powerful medical technology.