Realtime / non-invasive imaging of metabolic processes

new method using hyperpolairzed contrast agents being implemented in Kiel

Seeing and understanding the processes of life is one of most intriguing questions mankind is focusing on. Imaging has advanced our understanding of “how we function” tremendously – from microscope to x-rays to Magnetic Resonanz Imaging MRI. While many of today’s imaging technologies are used to “see what’s there”, a major trend is in developing method that go beyond this, depicting functional parameters such as motion, perfusion or – metabolism.

Here, a major breathrough is taking place at the moment. Quantum mechanical tricks are being used to produce so-called hyperpolarized contrast agents, that allow to image metabolism – non invasively and in vivo. Imaging metabolism means that we can image and see how our tissues are “eating” molecules, and producing a second molecule in the process.

Imaging tissue consuming metabolites provides novel insights that are not available otherwise. Often, metabolism changes before pathologies manifest: Hyperpolarized MRI has identified “invisible cancer”: tissue that was appearing normal, but was found to carry cancer cells on microscopy. In another example, hyperpolarized MRI was able to identify all responders to therapy only one week after therapy onset – a very promising tool to provide non-responders with different therapy options.

This technology is currently being implemented in Kiel, where the interdisciplinary university, the medical faculty with its focus areas inflammation, oncology, Germany’s second largest university medical center UKSH offer a perfect setting to make this technology available to patients. Prof. Dr. Jan-Bernd Hövener,  Head, Section Biomedical Imaging and MOIN CC, Kiel University and one of the PIs within the miTarget project 10 “Bacterial evolution during chronic inflammation and its potential for ancestral state restorative therapy” leads the implementation and further development. Here, the goal is to image microbes in vivo, to investigate the metabolism of microbes, and to image the metabolic changes associated with inflammation. The new methods are also available to the project partners within miTarget.

For more information see:


Film TV, 17 September, 2023 (sorry, in German only): Krebs früher erkennen – neue Diagnostik aus Kiel | – Nachrichten – Schleswig-Holstein

Hyperpolarized 13C magnetic resonance imaging-a window into metabolism : High-resolution images of human metabolism, Peters JP, Ellermann F, Anikeeva M, Pravdivtsev AN, Saul P, Ferrari A, Lützen U, Zuhayra M, Jansen O, Hövener JB.. Radiologie (Heidelb). 1. Juni 2022;62(6):486–95. 

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