Magnetic Particle Imaging: A New Imaging Modality
“MPI is the most promising emerging imaging technology in the last 20 years and is expected to change the landscape of modern medical imaging and in vivo translational research.”
– IWMPI 2014
Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) is a new imaging modality that directly detects iron oxide nanoparticle tracers using time-varying magnetic fields. Because the tracer is not normally found in the body, MPI images have exceptional contrast and high sensitivity. The MPI technique is straightforward and can be described classically with three key concepts:
1. Magnetic Nanoparticles Align with an Applied Magnetic Field
Magnetic nanoparticles act like nanoscale bar magnets that align to an applied magnetic field. When the nanoparticles are aligned, we say that their magnetization is “saturated,” and their magnetization is at a maximum. When there is no applied field, the nanoparticles randomly orient and are “unsaturated.”
2. A Strong Magnetic Field Gradient Produces a Field Free Region (FFR)
A strong magnetic field gradient produces a special magnetic field where magnetic nanoparticle tracers are unsaturated at only one position, the FFR (Figure 2). Only nanoparticles passing through the FFR can produce a signal.
3. Rapidly Moving the FFR Selectively “Flips” SPIO’s, Inducing a Signal in a Receive Coil
Rapidly moving the FFR causes the nanoparticles passing through the FFR to flip from a saturated negative value (Figure 1A) to a saturated positive value (Figure 1C). This change in magnetization induces a signal in a receive coil. Since we know where the FFR is at all times, we can assign the signal to the known position of the FFR to produce an MPI image.