IBM said it has enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology 100-million-fold, paving the way to one day see what is going on at molecular levels in people's bodies.
IBM researchers working with the Center for Probing the Nanoscale at Stanford University in California have created a microscope that, with further development, could give 3D images of proteins. "This technology stands to revolutionize the way we look at viruses, bacteria, proteins, and other biological elements," said Mark Dean, vice president of strategy and operations for IBM Research.
The microscope takes advantage of "magnetic resonance force microscopy" (MRFM) that detects miniscule amounts of magnetism. The imaging technique can peer below surfaces of cells without damaging organic material, according to IBM.
The technique was used on a tobacco mosaic virus measuring just 18 nanometers across and achieved resolution down to four nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.
"MRI is well known as a powerful tool for medical imaging, but its capability for microscopy has always been very limited," said IBM Research manner of nanoscale studies Dan Rugar. "Our hope is that nano MRI will eventually allow us to directly image the internal structure of individual protein molecules and molecular complexes, which is key to understanding biological function."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009