"The technology will lower health care costs by reducing the cost per dose as well as the number of doses required," noted Dr. Sitharaman. "Further, since this new MRI contrast agent will substantially improve disease detection by increasing sensitivity and diagnostic confidence, it will enable earlier treatment for many diseases, which is less expensive, and of course more effective for diseases such as cancer."
Last month “Dr. Balaji Sitharaman, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University, and a team of researchers developed a new, highly efficacious, potentially safer and more cost effective nanoparticle-based MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) contrast agent for improved disease diagnosis and detection.” Needless to say, that new contrast agent is based on the 21st century miracle material graphene.
The MRI is largely credited as being invented at Stony Brook in 1974, and uses the rare earth element gadolinium as contrast agent, although gadolinium can have harmful side effects, so this new graphene development at Stony Brook heralds a whole new medical use demand for decades ahead. It also heralds one of the rare medical technology advances that brings with it lower costs as well as greater safety. My guess is that this graphene for Gd MRI switchover will turn out to be more next decade than this, unless the price of rare earth elements surges again as in early 2011.
Groundbreaking New Graphene-Based MRI Contrast Agent
—-Currently, most MRI procedures use gadolinium-based contrast agents to improve the visibility and definition of disease detection. However, recent studies have shown harmful side effects, such as nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, stemming from the use of this contrast agent in some patients, forcing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to place restrictions on the clinical use of gadolinium. Further, most MRI contrast agents are not suitable for extended-residence-intravascular (blood pool), or tissue (organ)-specific imaging, and do not allow molecular imaging.
To address the need for an MRI contrast agent that demonstrates greater effectiveness and lower toxicity, Dr. Sitharaman developed a novel high-performance graphene-based contrast agent that may replace the gadolinium-based agent which is widely used by physicians today. "A graphene-based contrast agent can allow the same clinical MRI performance at substantially lower dosages," said Dr. Sitharaman.
The principle behind the use of MRI machines is that they make use of the fact that body tissue contains lots of water (and hence protons) which gets aligned in a large magnetic field. Each water molecule has two hydrogen nuclei or protons. When a person is inside the powerful magnetic field of the scanner, the average magnetic moment of many protons becomes aligned with the direction of the field. A radio frequency current is briefly turned on, producing a varying electromagnetic field. This electromagnetic field has just the right frequency, known as the resonance frequency, to be absorbed and flip the spin of the protons in the magnetic field. After the electromagnetic field is turned off, the spins of the protons return to thermodynamic equilibrium and the bulk magnetization becomes re-aligned with the static magnetic field. During this relaxation, a radio frequency signal (electromagnetic radiation in the RF range) is generated, which can be measured with receiver coils.
Stony Brook University