A new class of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) agent that has the potential to improve early diagnosis of various types of disease has been developed by a team, led by Professor Andrew Whittaker, at the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) with ANFF-Q.
MRI is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to visualise internal structures of the body in detail and in 3 dimensions. It has proven to be revolutionary for medical diagnosis due to its rich information content, relatively high resolution, and non-invasive nature. It also does not use harmful ionising radiation such as X-rays.
Before a patient receives an MRI scan, an imaging agent is often injected into the body to enhance the image quality and allow the precise delineation of diseased tissues to ensure more effective medical intervention. For the diagnostics of certain conditions, current imaging agents often suffer from poor sensitivity and image contrast.
MRI agents are highly engineered structures. In collaboration ANFF-Q, which specialises in functional organic materials, the AIBN team engineered a new class of imaging agents that promise to allow much clearer definition of diseased tissue and mapping of specific tissue types by enhancing image definition and reducing scan times. These materials are called diblock copolymers.
ANFF-Q’s atomic force microscopy (AFM) facility was used to identify the microstructure of diblock copolymers deposited on a surface.
“Key to the engineering problem was the relationship between structure and how the materials behave in solution,” said Dr Elena Taran, ANFF-Q’s expert in AFM.
“These microstructures identified the size and shape of the polymer providing a critical insight into their functionality and performance as an MRI agent.”