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Prof. Suter Brings Together Quantum Physics and Medicine

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Portraitfoto eines Mannes in einem Labor. © Nikolas Golsch​/​TU Dort­mund
Prof. Dieter Suter has been professor of Physics at TU Dort­mund University since 1995.

Quantum physics can improve medical imaging – this is the finding of an in­ter­na­tio­nal research cooperation, with the substantial involvement of TU Dort­mund University physics professor Dieter Suter. A scientific publication has now appeared in the journal Physical Review Applied.

Diagnosing diseases is still a challenge for medical professionals. With the help of technical devices, it is possible to get more and more accurate pictures of the inside of a human being without having to penetrate the body. Experts call this non-invasive imaging.

One question pursued by Dort­mund physics professor Dieter Suter is: Can quantum physics improve medical diagnosis even further? With what precision can magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measure small structures deep inside the human body? The in­ter­na­tio­nal team, which in addition to Suter includes scientists from Israel and Argentina, has developed a measurement method to achieve the best resolution possible. The team was even able to show how this limit can be attained using a clinical scanner.

Detecting structures down to a few micrometers

This progress in the visual representation of the smallest body structures is based on quantum technologies that are currently advancing sensor technology and could also have an enormous impact on clinical medicine. When MRI is used in clinical medicine, its resolution with conventional imaging modalities is limited to about one millimeter. In contrast to this, the new method makes it possible to resolve structures in the range of a few micrometers – an improvement by a factor of 100. For this purpose, the scientists record the movement of water molecules, which are present in every part of the human body and whose movement can be measured with utmost precision by MRI.

"The high resolution of our technology is relevant for the detection of biomarkers and pathologies that are of interest for a variety of diseases," says Prof. Suter. Thus it may be just one example of a number of future technologies based on quantum in­for­mation that could, beyond precision medicine, pervade many other application areas.

Long-term in­ter­na­tio­nal collaboration

The current publication has a long history behind it and is the result of close in­ter­na­tio­nal collaboration. Prof. Suter's doctoral supervisor was Prof. Richard Robert Ernst, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1991 for his groundbreaking contributions to the development of high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Ernst is considered one of the "fathers" of MRI. Prof. Suter continued to pursue research in this area. One of his postdocs – Gonzalo Alvarez – also devoted himself to this topic. Together with his wife Analia Zwick, Alvarez first made his way to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. They then took up professorships in Bariloche, Argentina. The scientists have always kept in touch with Prof. Suter. Together they continue to explore this technology. That has now resulted in this latest publication.

Further in­for­mation

Contact for further in­for­mation:

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund University is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dort­mund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

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