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Life Research

Research from our NMR Facility

Surprising Rigidity of Functionally Important Water Molecules Buried in the Lipid Headgroup Region

A schematic model for the hydrated phospholipid bilayer, which is a model of biological membranes

Research from our NMR Facility

NMR FAIR Data: Phase-Separation Properties of an RNA-Binding Protein.


Life Research from our ICR Facility

The Blood Proteoform Atlas: A reference map of proteoforms in human blood cells

The Human Proteoform Project separates cell types found in blood.

Research from our NMR Facility

Understanding how fungi build their cell walls for protection

Structural model of fungal cell walls supported by extensive solid-state NMR data.

Scientists working at the MagLab use powerful magnets to learn more about living structures and investigate disease.

In hospitals, doctors use MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines, powered by magnets, to diagnose patients. Scientists use similar instruments at the MagLab — but seven times stronger.


The lab's research priorities are determined by its user community. The lab’s life-related science drivers are:

Spin Coherence and Spin Control. The many methods to manipulate and detect electron and nuclear magnetic fields (“spins”), including:

  • fundamental spin physics
  • ultra-sensitive NMR and MRI probes and techniques, and
  • the improvement of MRI contrast via selective spin dephasing;

In Vitro to In Vivo. Structure and dynamics of the macromolecular components of life, using magnetic fields to:

  • probe in situ molecules via nuclear and electron magnetic resonance
  • image cellular substructure in tissues via magnetic resonance imaging and
  • identify the many small molecules involved in metabolism via ion cyclotron resonance and nuclear magnetic resonance

This results in high-resolution images that allow scientists to observe living systems at a nearly cellular level in real time. With our unique magnets, researchers study everything from whole, living animals to individual cells and even tiny disease proteins. They investigate a variety of human diseases and disorders, from cancer to HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s, and brain injuries to Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) .

Using novel, high-field MRI techniques, for example, researchers observing the movement of sodium in the brains of rats can gauge the success of chemotherapy by directly observing if a tumor has shrunk — within days of treatment, rather than the weeks or months required by conventional MRI. Scientists also use high magnetic fields to map the structure of proteins on the surface of tuberculosis bacteria and the AIDS virus, important first steps in developing new drugs to treat these global health threats.

Another novel MRI technique under development at the lab — diffusion-weighted MRI — also provides a unique view of the brain’s structure. Even stronger tools are in the works: A 20 tesla MRI machine for human patients is under development at the lab that would offer neuroscientists views of brain connections in unprecedented detail, transforming our understanding of the human mind.

In addition, scientists are mining plant and animal materials for naturally occurring chemicals that could one day be used to develop new drugs.

The MagLab’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Magnetic Resonance Imaging / Spectroscopy facilities are located at MagLab headquarters at Florida State University and within the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Additional biological research is performed at the lab’s headquarters location within the Ion Cyclotron Resonance and DC Field facilities.

View highlights of some of the lab's recent life research.

Last modified on 17 June 2015