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Health Beat: Nanoscale MRI: Medicine's next big thing?

Health Beat: Nanoscale MRI: Medicine's next big thing?

The first MRI body scan was performed on a human in 1977. 

It took almost five hours to produce one image. Thanks to medical advances, the technology has greatly improved, and now scientists said there's a new type of MRI that could improve patient care.

From the brain to the heart to the liver, MRIs can scan virtually every organ in your body, but now, there's an MRI like no other.  

The new MRI lets doctors see images on a nanoscale.

"Imagine that you want to see, for example, the workings of a cell," said Carlos Meriles, professor of physics at the City College of New York.

The machine could allow doctors to see a person's individual molecules or examine a strand of DNA. 

"That kind of limit, you can't reach, you can't even think of reaching with standard technology, standard MRI technology," Meriles said.

The nanoscale MRI has a resolution up to 10,000 times better than a standard MRI.

To create the new MRI, scientists used defects in diamonds. When light is directed at them, they pick up the magnetic properties of nearby atoms in a cell. 

"We have to think of atoms as little magnets," said Meriles.

But because the system uses light, a large, strong magnet isn't necessary. That could mean a safer scan for patients down the road.

The nanoscale MRI probably won't be available for another 10 years, and researchers said it most likely won't replace current MRIs, but would be used to collect different kinds of data.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary

DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Carlos Meriles about the nanoscale MRI

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