An Indian American professor's project on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could revolutionize healthcare by providing a more accurate tool for diagnosing cancer and other illnesses.
Naresh Dalal, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the Florida State University (FSU) and a graduate of Panjab University, conducted experiments with other researchers from the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Standards and Technology that uncovered unique properties in a molecular magnet - properties that could significantly increase the resolution of MRIs, according to the FSU website.
Their paper on the "Efficacy of the single-molecule magnet Fe8 for magnetic resonance imaging contrast agent over a broad range of concentration" was published in the current issue of Polyhedron, a prestigious science journal.
"There are continual efforts to enhance the level of image clarity found in today's MRI devices," Dalal said. "MRIs utilize injectable dyes, but those in current use, while easy to manufacture, offer a relatively low contrast. Our experiments show that a class of materials known as single-molecule magnets might produce greater contrast in medical imaging, meaning MRIs would be much more accurate."
Working at the FSU and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Dalal and another FSU researcher, chemistry graduate teaching assistant Vasanth Ramachandran, were able to synthesise a substance known as Fe8 that is one of the strongest magnets known.
"Fe8 is a molecule made up of eight iron ions that form a tight molecular bond," Dalal said. "It has a powerful magnetic field, which is obviously important in generating a very clear image with an MRI device. What's more, Fe8 is non-toxic and water-soluble, making it safe for injection into the body."
Molecular magnets such as Fe8 hold great potential for other applications as well, he said.
Dalal graduated from Punjab University in 1962 and later, in 1971, did his doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.