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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.
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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.
To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.
TU Dortmund University has its own train station ("Dortmund Universität"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dortmund main station ("Dortmund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The university is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.
You can also take the bus or subway train from Dortmund city to the university: From Dortmund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dortmund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dortmund main station to the stop "Dortmund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dortmund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dortmund Universität S".
The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dortmund Airport (DTM) to Dortmund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dortmund Central Station, you can continue to the university campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of international flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the university station.
The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dortmund University. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dortmund Universität S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the university directly with the city of Dortmund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.