An article in physicsworld discusses how helium plays a critical role in the technique of dissolution dynamic nuclear polarisation (d-DNP), which has revolutionised magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). By cooling pyruvic acid in a bath of liquid helium, the acid becomes hyperpolarised, increasing its nuclear polarisation by five orders of magnitude. This hyperpolarised pyruvic acid is then injected into the body, significantly improving the signal-to-noise ratio of MRI images. The technique has enabled highly sensitive spectroscopic imaging, allowing researchers to track the distribution, movement, and transformation of pyruvic acid in biological systems, providing valuable insights into various physiological processes and diseases such as cancer. While the use of liquid helium presents challenges in terms of sterilisation and cost, the immense benefits of d-DNP in diagnosing and monitoring diseases make it a worthwhile and life-saving application of helium in medical research.
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