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ICFO and Vitala Technologies collaborate on metabolic imaging

22 Nov 2023

Technique could yield new information about cancer and cardiovascular disease.

A collaboration between ICFO and Vitala Technologies, both based in Barcelona, could lead to improved views of metabolic imaging using quantum sensors.

The project, christened SEE-13-MRI, will be led on the ICFO side by Michael Tayler from the center's Atomic Quantum Optics (AQO) research group.

AQO researches light-matter interactions and entanglement, as a route to understanding quantum optical effects in advanced sensing and future technologies such as quantum computers.

"At the most applied, we develop new atomic sensors for existing applications such as biomagnetism, and new applications for atomic sensors such as magnetic resonance imaging and searches for dark matter," notes the AQO mission statement on the ICFO site.

That connection with magnetic resonance will be to the fore in SEE-13-MRI, which intends to study the widened use of carbon-13 MRI in clinical and pre-clinical metabolic imaging with quantum sensors from the Atomic Quantum Optics group.

Use of 13C is an emerging technique for molecular imaging that could transform the early-stage detection of several diseases. It uses a small-molecule metabolite with boosted 13C content administered to a patient for spatial and temporal mapping by MRI. This allows the mapping of carbon atoms, key to metabolic operations, while overcoming the naturally low abundance of the isotope under normal circumstances.

Earlier in 2023, the AQO group demonstrated a prototype atomic magnetometer device for monitoring a hyperpolarized, or HP, compound of [1-13C]-pyruvate, the most widely used tracer in carbon-13 metabolic imaging

Wider access to early detection of disease

"ICFO will focus on techniques to continuously and non-destructively monitor the polarization of tracer metabolites using quantum sensors," commented the AQO group.

"Microfabricated quantum atomic magnetometers with outstanding sensitivity will be developed at ICFO, enabling improved quality control of hyperpolarized tracers as compared to the procedures currently performed, which are slow and strongly degrade the polarization state of the tracers."

Vitala Technologies will work on new routes to produce the hyperpolarized tracer metabolites with long lifetimes. The company already develops organ-on-chip technology that mimics the physiological functions of both healthy and diseased organs, as a route to imaging the metabolic reactions that can take place.

"Combined, these technologies seek to widen access to early detection of disease and break barriers towards future commercial exploitation of HP-13C imaging in preclinical and clinical stages of drug discovery," noted ICFO.

Iridian Spectral TechnologiesHÃœBNER PhotonicsABTechOptikos Corporation LaCroix Precision OpticsUniverse Kogaku America Inc.Berkeley Nucleonics Corporation
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