2 August 2017

MagLab receives $5.8M to develop biomedical technology

From left to right: Tim Cross, Joanna Long , and William Brey From left to right: Tim Cross, Joanna Long , and William Brey Stephen Bilenky

Federal grant to fund new tools for biology research in high magnetic fields

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TALLAHASSEE — The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is launching a new Biomedical Technology Research Resource within the National MagLab. This center will develop world-unique instrumentation for innovative biomedical work in high magnetic fields to combat diseases like Alzheimer's and tuberculosis.

The MagLab is already home to the strongest MRI for small animals (21.1 tesla) and the strongest magnet in the world for nuclear magnetic resonance — the new 36 tesla series connected hybrid. But researchers need more than high fields to tackle the world's most important biomedical questions. So the new center is funding the development of cutting-edge tools that will amplify the MagLab's world-unique magnets.

"This new grant leverages the exciting capabilities already available at the MagLab, allowing us to offer high magnetic fields as a transformative biomedical technique to our worldwide user community," said Greg Boebinger, National MagLab director.

The center's innovative instrumentation will be in the form of probes, complex mini-electronic devices that hold biological samples while they are loaded into a magnet. These new state-of-the art probes will help scientists see the molecular structure and chemistry of proteins that cause diseases.

Two of the new probes, called "magic angle spinning probes," will be designed for use on the series connected hybrid magnet and for enhancing NMR sensitivity in superconducting magnets with a technique called dynamic nuclear polarization. These unique probes will spin solid biological samples near the speed of sound (up to 50,000 resolutions per second) to isolate signals from specific atoms within the molecules researchers are studying, information needed to understand the molecular basis of diseases.

"Advanced probes like these are a key piece of the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) research puzzle," said Tim Cross, Florida State University (FSU) chemistry professor and director of the MagLab's NMR/MRI Facility. "These probes will be the most sensitive of their kind, and we expect them to generate quite a stir in the research community."

Another probe will capitalize on the use of high-temperature superconductors to develop super-sensitive NMR probes for characterizing complex solutions that contain hundreds of molecules, like those from the metabolism of our diets.

More than 40 research groups worldwide are participating in the project. They can expect to take these new probes for a spin as they become available, beginning in 2018. A comprehensive training effort to work with future generations of graduate students, postdocs and early career scientists across the biomedical community will also be a key component of the new center.

This new center will connect the MagLab's nuclear magnetic resonance efforts across two sites and within two user facilities, tapping into the expertise of MagLab researchers at both FSU and the University of Florida (UF). The MagLab's NMR/MRI technology group, led by William Brey and Peter Gor'kov, will design the instrumentation. Two UF faculty members, Joanna Long (director of the MagLab's Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy facility) and Matthew Merritt will work with Cross to lead the science effort.

Story by Kristin Roberts

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is the world’s largest and highest-powered magnet facility. Located at Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the interdisciplinary National MagLab hosts scientists from around the world to perform basic research in high magnetic fields, advancing our understanding of materials, energy and life. The lab is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR-1157490) and the state of Florida. For more information, visit us online at nationalmaglab.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at NationalMagLab.