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Development of a Novel Approach for Imaging Inhaled Particulates

EMSL Project ID


The human respiratory tract is a target for a broad range of airborne particulates that can contribute to a vast array of different diseases. Nevertheless, currently available techniques for studying the dosimetry and clearance of particulates are - expensive, time-consuming, and generally suffer from poor spatial resolution. In recognition of these shortcomings, the purpose of this project is to develop and test a novel, gas-phase magnetic resonance (MR) imaging approach that exploits the interaction of inhaled 3He gas with magnetic tracer particles for determining their precise location and amount in the respiratory tract. Unlike conventional methods, the proposed method of particulate dosimetry is inherently three-dimensional, completely noninvasive, and uses benign/inert materials appropriate for human research. Moreover, preliminary studies using a foam lung model loaded with controlled amounts of particulates suggest that single particle detection might be achievable if hyperpolarized 3He gas is employed for high-resolution MR imaging experiments. In light of this finding, the specialized infrastructure required for the generation, storage, and delivery of hyperpolarized 3He gas is currently being developed, and work towards in-vivo particulate detection using optimized MR methods is underway. If successful, the development of a non-invasive MR imaging approach for quantifying particle deposition and clearance in vivo will revolutionize the way inhalation toxicology studies are conducted and dramatically improve the scientific basis for assessing the risks posed by airborne pollutants.

Project Details

Project type
Capability Research
Start Date
End Date


Principal Investigator

Kevin Minard
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Related Publications

Minard KR, C Timchalk, and RA Corley. 2005. "T2-Shortening of 3He Gas by Magnetic Microspheres." Journal of Magnetic Resonance 173(1):90-96.