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IBM Creates MRI With 100M Times the Resolution

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the little-tiny-hairs dept.

IBM 161

An anonymous reader writes "IBM Research scientists, in collaboration with the Center for Probing the Nanoscale at Stanford University, have demonstrated magnetic resonance imaging with volume resolution 100 million times finer than conventional MRI. This result, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, signals a significant step forward in tools for molecular biology and nanotechnology by offering the ability to study complex 3D structures at the nanoscale."

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161 comments

High levels of radiation (5, Funny)

Light and Truth (1444615) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440195)

This is a concerning development for those who have been following the advancement of science (MRI Technology). One of the undocumented effects (intentional) of MRI is "direct particle insertion" where the resonance of strong magnetism can be used to transport matter particles as energy through short distances and reassembled within confines of enclosed cavity (skull or chest). This is DOCUMENTED FACT as established by Dr. Paul C. Lauterbur in 1971 through research papers (suppressed as unpublished). With current levels of technology there is too much diffusion by radio waves to take advantage of timing effects due to low resolution. Experiments are performed DAILY to eliminate high levels of interference (government frequencies) but none could prove beyond a doubt a way to perfect a technique for changing neurons due to the small size (can be seen with the strongest microscope only). Having mapped a human brain (genomics) with fine resolution permits modification of magnetic waves to CREATE AND DESTROY thought. This tech was five years to deployment but has been accelerated for widespread acceptance (planned by bureaucracy).

Re:High levels of radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440261)

I loled

Re:High levels of radiation (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440471)

I came

And I'm making myself... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441043)

...not a tinfoil hat, but rather, a hat made from Mu-metal [wikipedia.org] .

Re:High levels of radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441961)

I left.

Re:High levels of radiation (5, Funny)

Evanisincontrol (830057) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440281)

Please inform us if you are serious or joking so you can be modded appropriately. I hope it's the latter.

Re:High levels of radiation (2, Informative)

GeckoAddict (1154537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441165)

With a user ID of 1444615 and that being the only post... I seriously doubt they're joking, which is a sad fact in itself.

Re:High levels of radiation (3, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441297)

Or maybe it's their professional trolling debut!

Re:High levels of radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441331)

"I seriously doubt they're joking"

In which case, we have a winner! ... Winner that is, of the most Schizophrenic Slashdot post of 2009! ... (well, most so far, unfortunately) ... So anyway, everyone join in celebration, of this hard won victory, against overwhelming competition here on Slashdot (for some strange reason, they find Slashdot, like moths find a flame) and may we all hope the winner's medication kicks in soon!

Re:High levels of radiation (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442067)

They need some thoughts DESTROYED, I think. If OP is correct, we will be able to cure crazy, right?

Re:High levels of radiation (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440291)

That was onion-worthy

Re:High levels of radiation (4, Informative)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440299)

My understanding of this specific MRI technology is that its applications are similar to that of an electron microscope.

Unless you plan on crawling into a pitri dish your precious little thoughts should be safe. You don't even need tinfoil!

Re:High levels of radiation (3, Funny)

SigmaTao (629358) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440911)

Your brain has to be prepared - Diced.... But don't worry we will give you a replacement - a simple one should suffice :-)

Tin Foil Hats - The Ultimate Fail! (1)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 5 years ago | (#26443009)

Didn't some crazy kids at MIT show that if in fact someone were trying to beam thoughts into your head, that a tin foil hat was more likely to act in an amplification manner than an interfering one?

To me, that is the perfect, ultimate fail.

Re:High levels of radiation (4, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440543)

The Doctor: Um, that big, erm, machine thing - is it supposed to be making that noise?
Florence Finnegan: You wouldn't understand.
The Doctor: But isn't that a magnetic resonance imaging thing? Like a ginormous sort of a magnet? I did Magnetics GCSE. Well, I failed, but all the same...
Florence Finnegan: A magnet with its setting now increased to 50,000 tesla.
The Doctor: Ooh, that's a bit strong. Isn't it?
Florence Finnegan: It'll send out a magnetic pulse that'll fry the brain stems of every living thing within 250,000 miles. Except for me. Safe in this room.
The Doctor: But hold on, hold on. I did Geography GCSE. I passed that one. Doesn't that distance include the Earth?
Florence Finnegan: Only the side facing the moon. The other half will survive. Call it my gift.

Re:High levels of radiation (1)

rufus t firefly (35399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440671)

Florence Finnegan: It'll send out a magnetic pulse that'll fry the brain stems of every living thing within 250,000 miles. Except for me. Safe in this room.

OT: I do like Doctor Who, but didn't that sound an awful lot like that "magic phone booth" in Superman II where he magically avoided losing his powers [stomptokyo.com] by (insert cheesy script device here) and standing in the booth?

Of course, the cheese was expected in that episode of Doctor Who [wikia.com] , since it was written by Russell T Davis.

Re:High levels of radiation (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441185)

OT: I do like Doctor Who, but didn't that sound an awful lot like that "magic phone booth" in Superman II where he magically avoided losing his powers by (insert cheesy script device here) and standing in the booth?

The only thing wrong with that was that it stole a basic Star Trek trope, the "reversal of polarity".

See, earlier in the movie, Superman went inside the booth to lose his powers, and then uses it again to gain them back. But once the other Kryptonians are there, he reverses the booth so it takes powers from everyone outside the booth instead of inside. Pure genius!

So I forgive it for stealing the Star Trek meme due to it operating on multiple axes (lose/gain, inside/outside).

Re:High levels of radiation (2, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441349)

The only thing wrong with that was that it stole a basic Star Trek trope, the "reversal of polarity".

I was about to object, but then checked the dates and Star Trek (original series) does predate the Third Doctor's "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" [wikipedia.org] (1966-1969 vs. 1970-1974).

Instead I say, well played sir!

Re:High levels of radiation (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441491)

Instead I say, well played sir!

By pure luck, I had no idea when Doctor Who aired and when/if it first mentioned reversing polarity. But I'll take it. :)

Re:High levels of radiation (2, Insightful)

sams67 (880846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440863)

The big letters mean it MUST be TRUE.

Re:High levels of radiation (5, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440959)

This is DOCUMENTED FACT as established by Dr. Paul C. Lauterbur in 1971 through research papers (suppressed as unpublished)

Aha, an undocumented documented fact. Well, I'm convinced.

Re:High levels of radiation (2, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441081)

You forgot the bit about the Time Cube!

Re:High levels of radiation (3, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441403)

You forgot the bit about the Time Cube!

And being invented by Shampoo!

(A gift of peace in all good faith.)

Re:High levels of radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441433)

Thank Gawd! Just when I thought slashdot was full of paranoid crazies, a voice of reason comes out.

(now that was a joke)

Re:High levels of radiation (1)

spice guru (1365397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441625)

Dear Light on truth: That was magnificent. In my experience everything planned by bureaucracy quickly gains widespread acceptance. My own early papers on quantum genomics in game theory were also suppressed as unpublished. Those documented facts remain undocumented to this day.

pr0n! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440217)

imagine the possibilities..

Re:pr0n! (2, Funny)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440321)

we can SEE the herpes virus enter the skin during penetration now! I don't need 1080p, I need HSVp!

Re:pr0n! (1)

KovaaK (1347019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440637)

Yea - a high-def version of this [scienceblogs.com] !

This is great to see (5, Insightful)

Zouden (232738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440253)

Now if only HP and AT&T would bring back their R&D departments we might see more companies doing basic research like this.

HP Should not be allowed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440369)

to have research departments. They spy on board members using illegal means, defend those choices publicly, and give golden parachutes to the people caught doing it.

Re:This is great to see (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440429)

Don't worry Sam Palmisano is doing his best to destroy IBM. Under his so called leadership morale has dropped to lows never seen. Everything is being cut even R&D. Latest rumors are 16,000 most US based to be laid off on Jan 23.

Re:This is great to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26442735)

Don't worry Sam Palmisano is doing his best to destroy IBM. Under his so called leadership morale has dropped to lows never seen. Everything is being cut even R&D. Latest rumors are 16,000 most US based to be laid off on Jan 23.
 
...and he's not kidding [recordonline.com] , folks.....

Re:This is great to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441467)

Any company with many locations and large parking lots is EVIL.
 
I don't care what IBM just did for medicine. No free passes!

Re:This is great to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26442415)

Maybe HP and AT&T can pick up these researchers when IBM lays them off on the 23rd.

Re:This is great to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26442917)

What company is responsible with finding the memristor again??? Yeah that would be HP.

uploading (2, Interesting)

hedley (8715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440271)

Now we are getting closer. Once you can extract the raw brain data, you can simulate the data. You can 'live' forever if they can get the raw data out.

Adapting inputs to the simulation and that simulation can interact with you...

H.

Re:uploading (4, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440613)

But would you want to live forever in a Windows Vista Box. You are thinking naughty things, cancel or allow.

Re:uploading (1)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441029)

dd -if=/dev/brain of=/backups/brain`date +%y%m%d%H%M%S`.dd

Re:uploading (1)

hedley (8715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441225)

:) I like the dd. So, a Harry Potter Pensive is not really needed any longer then?

H.

Not really. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441613)

A digital copy of your brain could 'live' forever, but your biological self would still wither and die. Duplicating your consciousness does not magically transfer it.

Re:Not really. (4, Interesting)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441923)

So you need a way for the external machine to influence parts of your brain. If you can make a computer override the output of any particular neuron then you can burn out and take over the running of one neuron at a time. It's the ship of theseus problem made to work for you. Your identity is not embedded in any particular cell, so you could remain conscious though the duration of the transfer process. I imagine it taking quite a long time, I wouldn't be comfortable with it unless the transfer took a good fraction of a year, but the principle is sound even if you do it more quickly.

Re:uploading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441893)

Your consciousness is bound by your brain.
Making a copy will only make a copy.
Transferring won't work either. (at least, i don't think it would, humans generally have no control over their own brains)

The only way you could make your brain live "forever" would be if you could replace all the neurons, one by one.
The replacement being an improved neuron and brain in general that allows more control over functionality. (digital zoom, filters, memory, etc)
Nature is generally pretty wasteful when it comes to space usage in the brain (a lot is actually empty space, room for the brain to form new connections by the looks of it)
You could condense quite a bit of it and not lose the ability to form new connections in the areas that matter.

Interesting! (4, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440287)

I wonder if it can resolve individual dendrite connections in the brain. If so, we've just developed our first brain scanner capable of mapping a living brain's circuitry. Which means, in principle, we now possess all the technology required to model a human brain, or for that matter (but at extreme cost), create a synthetic one. Though, at present, we have no way of truly providing it with the interface necessary for communication or interaction with the physical world.

Re:Interesting! (1)

nategoose (1004564) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440495)

Since IBM is already working on simulating a cat brain it's very likely.

Re:Interesting! (4, Funny)

popeye44 (929152) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440997)

Great, All I need is a machine which ignores me.. then 5 minutes later wants something but isn't happy with whatever I give it. randomly scratches the shit out of me and takes off running like it's ass is on fire. No Thanks.

Re:Interesting! (4, Funny)

Directrix1 (157787) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441461)

Are you talking about a cat or a wife?

A cat is fine too. (3, Funny)

soupforare (542403) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442945)

..."or"?

Re:Interesting! (3, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441073)

...simulating a cat brain

No problem:

for (;;) {
        for (i=1000 ; i ; i--)
                printf("meow\n");
        cough_up_hairball();
}

Re:Interesting! (2, Insightful)

Dice (109560) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441327)

I think you need a call to rand(), a switch statement, and some additional function calls like sleep_in_sun(), eat(), shit(), scratch_aimlessly_at_litter(), tear_through_the_house_for_no_apparent_reason(), etc.

Re:Interesting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26442591)

I think you should insert a pause somewhere in that loop, I hear cats get warm pretty easily when you peg the CPU like that.
I'm sure my neighbour said something about his cat and heat and not sleeping, at any rate.

Re:Interesting! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440563)

This device won't work on large samples (think brain) because the detection mechanism is a microcantilever. It will work for small particles, since the resonant frequency of the cantilever can remain high with only a small mass on the end. Large objects will simply make the detector extremely slow and insensitive. While a whole brain won't work, I'd expect a few cells or small tissue sample might be possible to image, giving impressive detail on the chemical pathways in the cell and between cells.

Re:Interesting! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440565)

I wonder if it can resolve individual dendrite connections in the brain. If so, we've just developed our first brain scanner capable of mapping a living brain's circuitry. Which means, in principle, we now possess all the technology required to model a human brain

One problem I can see is bandwidth. You would need to be able to stream all the state changes in the brain through your instrument. Thats a lot of data, and would require a lot of processing power.

Re:Interesting! (4, Interesting)

zalas (682627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440629)

You need temporal resolution on the order of one second or less in addition to spatial resolution for most brain imaging. Standard MRI scans essentially scan frequency space of the specimen, which takes some time. The article doesn't say what time resolution their new technique has.

Re:Interesting! (5, Informative)

ViennaSt (1138481) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441097)

Unfortunately, this 3D MRI can not be applied to imaging the human brain yet.

One problem is that though this machine has great spatial resolution (precision in space)....it may not have great temporal resolution (precision in time).

In regards to your curiosity about imaging dendritic connections: It may image where/how the connections are made, which is a great leap for Neuroanatomists. But it cannot measure or record the hundreds of thousands of mechanisms and live actions that the dendrites/axons/cell bodies and their connections make during every one action potential that takes place...Even if this machine could measure outside the nanoscale.

Here's why: Neurons may fire a number of action potentials in millisecond time and increase/decrease in volume as the influx of sodium brings in water into the cell causing it to expand. As enough sodium (positively charged particals) are in the cell causing a depolarization, the voltage-gated ion channels shut off and K+ outflux/Na+ influx ceases. The cell hyperpolarizes, shrinks in volume and it's morphology is changed drastically once again. To capture all this change with such fine resolution is a feat, that sadly, cannot be accoplished by this 3D Machine--since everything it measures must be fixed and perfectly still. What neuroscientist use now for "partial real time brain imaging" is a function MRI or fMRI which measure changes in metabolism (glucose metabolism to be exact) but compromises the great spatial resolution this 3D machine has for the temporal resolution.

Re:Interesting! (1)

IanCal (1243022) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442405)

Unfortunately, this 3D MRI can not be applied to imaging the human brain yet

Or at all, since this is based on measuring the vibrations of a cantilever. This is a microscope, not a brain scanner.

fMRI which measure changes in metabolism (glucose metabolism to be exact)

Not quite, it measures the BOLD signal, but the actual causes for this are extremely complex and not fully understood.

Re:Interesting! (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442991)

PET scans "measure" metabolism, which is what the parent poster must have been confused with.

The removal of the brain is a red flag to me. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442701)

Unfortunately, this 3D MRI can not be applied to imaging the human brain yet.

One problem is that though this machine has great spatial resolution (precision in space)....it may not have great temporal resolution (precision in time).

Forget that problem dude. The sample to be imaged by this MRI has to be placed on top of what the article calls a "silicon diving board". Now, I'm not the sharpest guy in the world, but "silicon diving board" does NOT sound like skull, which, to my lay understanding seems to be a pretty fair spot for brains to be placed in living things.

Re:Interesting! (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442203)

I wonder if it can resolve individual dendrite connections in the brain.

How do you get someone to sit still enough to get that kind of resolution?

Re:Interesting! (1)

IanCal (1243022) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442423)

No, since this is a microscope. It's not an improvement on medical MRI scanners.

FTFA: "MRI is well known as a powerful tool for medical imaging, but its capability for microscopy has always been very limited,"

Twitter? (1)

Jonah Bomber (535788) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440301)

At the end of the video are two URL's and a Twitter address. Remember when everyone started putting Web addresses at the end of their ads? Are we entering the new age of making sure everyone can Twitter us too now?

Re:Twitter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440609)

poop is coming out

Storage Monster (2, Insightful)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440377)

Good lord I don't want to see the required storage space for each file on that thing...

What they don't tell you about the DRM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440421)

The system uses a problematic connection to that easily unplugged to enforce connection only to IBM licensed monitors and output devices.

Third-party devices will be downscaled to 480p or saddled with a new macrovision protection system that inserts random false-positive diseased results into any analog outputs.

And users that want to placecast or timecast MRIs, display their MRIs on their iPhones, or have a jukebox of family MRIs are screwed.
 

Re:What they don't tell you about the DRM! (1)

lemur666 (313121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440961)

Personally I want DRM on my brain.

The next thing I know I'll be coming home to find my wife in bed with a cheap, Chinese knock-off of myself.

Isn't this just.... (1)

talcite (1258586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440425)

Re:Isn't this just.... (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440493)

Not really. This is the combination of AFM or STEM with NMR. If that makes any sense. They scan a tiny magnetic probe across the object being observed.

Re:Isn't this just.... (4, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440793)

What it amounts to is an atomic force microscope [wikipedia.org] combined with a magnetic needle that allows it to perform proton NMR. An AFM is a pretty general and adaptable technique- the key element is the cantilever system that allows you to detect a tiny amount of force exerted on atoms in a sample; how you supply that force, via magnetic resonance, van der Waals forces, the Casimir effect, etc., makes it versatile. The significant drawback of this instrument is that it is a supermicroscope, not a macroscale scanner like a medical MRI machine. Samples are usually limited to a surface area of a few hundred square microns. The resolution achieved here is impressive, but is best understood as an advancement in microscopy. Just as with a light microscope or an electron microscope, this is a technique for scanning cells, not bodies.

Similar to MEG? (1)

vix86 (592763) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440505)

Maybe someone who understands this a little better can fill me in.

The article makes the recording mechanism for the magnetic readings, seem a lot like MEG [wikipedia.org] . In MEG, you sit in a magnetically shielded room and have a "cap" containing SQUIDs [wikipedia.org] placed on your head. The squids detect the minor changes in magnetic fields around neurons. Using some fairly complex mathematics and physics, they can pinpoint where the changes occurred in 3D space and can build a topographic activation map similar to those seen using EEG/ERP techniques.

So my question remains. Is this advancement by IBM any different or simply an improvement on a design like MEG?

Re:Similar to MEG? (4, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441455)

No, this technique isn't anything like magnetoencephalography. The only way it could scan your brain is if you allowed them to cut out a cell at a time. Medical scale MRI works by aligning the spins of certain nuclei (usually hydrogen atoms, which are mostly bound in water molecules in your body) using a powerful magnetic field, then using a radiofrequency field to flip those spins, and then measuring the magnetic fields produced by the nuclei as they relax to their equilibrium state. Functional MRI, or fMRI, the type often used in brain activity monitoring, measures the differing magnetic properties of hemoglobin has when oxygen is bound versus free. Therefore, the technique monitors areas of increased oxygen usage by regions of the brain, which generally correlate to increase activity.

The technique the article discusses, however, is not to measure the magnetic properties of a bunch of atoms, but to make a picture of a sample by scanning atom by atom. A very precisely constructed magnetic needle scans over a surface, in this case, the surface of a virus. Whenever the needle hovers over a hydrogen nucleus, the nucleus flips, generating a tiny force that pushes down on the stage the virus is mounted on. By recording each of these events, a map is generated of all of the hydrogen nuclei the needle passed over. It's a great way to look at protein structure, but an awfully slow way to look at a brain.

High resolution but small volume (5, Informative)

kebes (861706) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440509)

The actual scientific paper is:
C. L. Degen, M. Poggio, H. J. Mamin, C. T. Rettner, D. Rugar Nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging [pnas.org] PNAS 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812068106 [doi.org] .

The abstract:

We have combined ultrasensitive magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) with 3D image reconstruction to achieve magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with resolution <10 nm. The image reconstruction converts measured magnetic force data into a 3D map of nuclear spin density, taking advantage of the unique characteristics of the 'resonant slice' that is projected outward from a nanoscale magnetic tip. The basic principles are demonstrated by imaging the 1H spin density within individual tobacco mosaic virus particles sitting on a nanometer-thick layer of adsorbed hydrocarbons. This result, which represents a 100 million-fold improvement in volume resolution over conventional MRI, demonstrates the potential of MRFM as a tool for 3D, elementally selective imaging on the nanometer scale.

I think it's important to emphasize that this is a nanoscale magnetic imaging technique. The summary implies that they created a conventional MRI that has nanoscale resolution, as if they can now image a person's brain and pick out individual cells and molecules. That is not the case! And that is likely to never be possible (given the frequencies of radiation that MRI uses and the diffraction limit [wikipedia.org] that applies to far-field imaging.

That having been said, this is still a very cool and noteworthy piece of science. Scientists use a variety of nanoscale imaging tools (atomic force microscopes [wikipedia.org] , electron microscopes [wikipedia.org] , etc.), but having the ability to do nanoscale magnetic imaging is amazing. In the article they do a 3D reconstruction of a tobacco mosaic virus. One of the great things about MRI is that is has some amount of chemical selectivity: there are different magnetic imaging modes that can differentiate based on makeup. This nanoscale analog can use similar tricks: instead of just getting images of surface topography or electron density, it could actually determine the chemical makeup within nanostructures. I expect this will become a very powerful technique for nano-imaging over the next decade.

Re:High resolution but small volume (1)

BeardedChimp (1416531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441227)

I wonder how it compares in resolution to a scanning tunneling microscope, where you use quantum tunneling of electrons to map individual atoms. The images (and the physics) for it are pretty cool.

Re:High resolution but small volume (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442207)

Just out of curiosity... if you can image specific viruses in a sample of, say, blood, then would it be possible to do extremely reliable blood screening of any and all known viruses by matching the reconstituted image of each object (or a suitably long cryptographic hash thereof) against a database of known viruses? One of the problems with identifying specific viral strains seems to be that it takes an extremely long time, often relies on the detection of the antibodies rather than the viruses themselves (which doesn't seem reliable, and has produced many stories purporting specific people are immune to viruses those people subsequently die from), and just seems to be all-round a really bad idea if you can avoid it.

If this MRI scanner can image a virus in 3D in such a way that modeling software (possibly with human aid) can isolate the virus and perform a direct match-up, it would seem that you should be able to screen for the virus (a) long before the immune system has detected anything, and therefore before an immune response has occurred, and (b) much more reliably (it should be hard to fool an MRI at this resolution, whereas bacteria and viruses fool the immune system all the time).

However, this line of reasoning is highly dependent on the assumption that the imaging can produce some images that are detailed enough that you can classify things automatically or semi-automatically, but not so detailed that "noise" (irrelevant variations) prevent identification. It is also highly dependent on the assumption that by "3D imaging", they mean images where the component objects can be separated in 3D space, rather than being a 3D "soup" that a trained expert can (eventually) pick objects out from. There are probably other assumptions in there that seem so obvious I'm missing that they're even there.

Even if this is possible (which is a big if), there are any number of factors (price, portability, energy costs, robustness, ease of maintenance, etc) which might preclude it from being used in practice in this way, except perhaps in the case of something particularly dangerous and new. I imagine SARS might have taken less time to classify, had this been available at the time of the initial breakout, assuming I'm correct about how good it is. HIV took even longer to identify, and the cause of CJDnv is only thought to be prions, there is no direct evidence of this - evidence this scanner could possibly provide. (Along, maybe, with an explanation for the other new CJD strain that is affecting Americans.)

Re:High resolution but small volume (1)

opposabledumbs (1434215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442769)

Nice one on finding that article. Now if you can just find the article that the first poster was alluding to, THAT would be something...

Transporter? (2, Insightful)

RetroGeek (206522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440573)

I wonder if this is fine enough to be able to distinguish the type and state of a molecule. If so, then you should be able to scan an entire person and store the result.

Then at a later date (when the technology becomes available) you should be able to re-create that person.

The beginnings of a transporter.

Re:Transporter? (3, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440711)

Indeed. A transporter that works like the visible man.

Step 1: die. (not strictly necessary, but makes the remaining steps more pleasant.)
Step 2: freeze body in great big ice cube. agitate and freeze rapidly to avoid bubbles and crystals.
step 3: put ice block on giant deli slicer. Use "1 cell thick" setting.
step 4: further divide ice slice into pieces small enough to use with the MRI device. Carefully label the position of each piece.
step 5: painstakingly scan each piece and store in appropriate database.
step 6: repeat steps 3 through 5 over the next several months until no slices remain.
step 7: ?
step 8: arrive at destination, nearly perfectly reconstructed and only a little bit dead (just your brains. and organs)

Re:Transporter? (1)

againjj (1132651) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441629)

step 9: resurrect self.
step 10: profit!!!

Re:Transporter? (2, Insightful)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440715)

I wonder if this is fine enough to be able to distinguish the type and state of a molecule. If so, then you should be able to scan an entire person and store the result.

Then at a later date (when the technology becomes available) you should be able to re-create that person.

The beginnings of a transporter.

Unfortunately, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle [wikipedia.org] dictates that in scanning the position of the particles, you also change their state. You can in short never know everything you need to know about a system to identically replicate it elsewhere.

Re:Transporter? (3, Insightful)

jackchance (947926) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440885)

It isn't clear whether the quantum uncertainty of the particles is relevant for reconstructing a biological organism.

It's true that the precise location of individual ions would be slightly misplaced. However, as long as the wiring of neurons was accurately recreated it might work.

So while the 'recreated' organism would not be 'exactly' the same as the scanned organism, it might be good enough.

Re:Transporter? (2, Insightful)

sdpuppy (898535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441361)

So while the 'recreated' organism would not be 'exactly' the same as the scanned organism, it might be good enough.

Hey - that's what my wife tells me all the time!

Wait Until The T.S.A. Uses This +1, Insulting (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440585)

to add to the price of your airline ticket.

PatRIOTically,
Kilgore Trout

One step closer to a better lie detector (0)

LuxMaker (996734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440697)

These devices have been used experimentally to detect truth and lies. It would be interesting to note if the accuracy can be improved with a higher scanning resolution.

Re:One step closer to a better lie detector (1)

Viking Coder (102287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440923)

As kebes said, this device won't work on the scale of the MRI that you're familiar with. It works on extremely small samples - biopsies, etc.

Re:One step closer to a better lie detector (1)

jackchance (947926) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441111)

wrong. "These device" has never been used for lie detection.

The OP is misleading. functional MRI (fMRI http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_magnetic_resonance_imaging)has [wikipedia.org] been used (badly) for lie detection. This technology has nothing to do with fMRI. Mainstream scientists (i am a neuroscientist) do not believe that brain scanning technology has been properly vetted as a lie detection device. It may be as good, or slightly better than a traditional lie detector, but probably should not be used as evidence in court.

Note, other researchers are trying to improve the spatial and temporal resolution of fMRI, but we are talking baby steps - doubling the resolution would be impressive.

yes but (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26440801)

You'll know exactly what your brain looked like unfortunately the vict^W subject is vaporized...

But the real question is: (4, Funny)

Mr_eX9 (800448) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440813)

Has this IBM invention patented itself yet?

Re:But the real question is: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441017)

No, the real question is: Does go BING?

not a valid comparison (5, Insightful)

Viking Coder (102287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440903)

kebes already pretty much said it, and as I said (under a different name) on Digg,

Saying "100 million times stronger than MRI" is a deceptive way to describe this. The normal usage of MRI that the public is familiar with is to scan your body, or parts of your body. This new technology would work on a "sample," for instance a biopsy. If the new technology operated at the same scale - your whole body - and was at 100 million times finer resolution - then that would be astounding.

But this is a competitor for other microscopes - not MRI.

Re:not a valid comparison (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441259)

Agreed completely. Note, too, that the claimed "volume resolution" improvement is about 10^8; if this is an equal amount of resolution in three dimensions, then the linear improvement is about 464. This is definitely no mean feat, but it's not quite as radical a change as one first thinks.

Re:not a valid comparison (1)

Viking Coder (102287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441697)

If they pulled it off for a live human, it would be a radical change.

As it is, it's in a totally different field of medicine than I typically care about.

Finaly! (0, Offtopic)

malkir (1031750) | more than 5 years ago | (#26440939)

An MRI to find asians dicks!

This sort of thing is huge. (1, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441025)

It is my firm belief that one of the major limitations to the ability to practice medicine today is the physician's lack of ability to SEE. Yes, the next step, of course, will be to develop tools that can actually perform work at such scales, but the first step, simply, is to see and thus to understand.

Just as the microscope revolutionized medicine, so too will technologies like this, and then some.

For years I have pined for "Star Trek medicine", where you go to the doctor and they wave some device over you and accurately diagnose your problems. Today such diagnosis seem to be largely based on interviewing the patient and whatever symptoms can be crudely gauged with the eye and sense of touch and smell.

The more ubiquitous such highly accurate 3D scanning devices become, the better off we will all be for it.

I want one (0, Offtopic)

spice guru (1365397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441135)

Can anyone have a center for probing?

Pictures? (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441293)

The article just has some annoying CGI.

celebs (0, Offtopic)

Rue C Koegel (1448549) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441333)

sooo... when are we going to be able to buy life-size posters of celebrity MRI's off ebay?

Where's Waldo? (0, Offtopic)

fireheadca (853580) | more than 5 years ago | (#26441501)

Maybe now we can find Waldo. He's been missing for about ten years now and is considered MIA.

Hopefully, with this new discovery (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26441725)

I will finally be able to see the difference between my ass and a hole in the ground!

20 years ago when I was at Stanford. (4, Interesting)

John Sokol (109591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26442193)

20 years ago when I was at Stanford they were experimenting with MRI Microscopy.
They were able to image 1/10 mm resolution of the inside of a common snail. Just using miniature coils.

My group was using the same machine to map blood flow volume and direction using MRI.

The article doesn't explain what they are doing in much detail. Even the little video is vague.

This advancement was enabled by a technique called magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM), which relies on detecting ultrasmall magnetic forces.

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