Hokkaido University Research Profiles

Life Sciences

Hyperpolarized 13C MRI for Genetic Mutation Imaging

Non-invasive visualization of genetic mutations in tumors by metabolic MRI

The outcome of cancer treatment largely depends on the type of genetic mutation that the cancer cells carry. Using the characteristic metabolic changes brought about by genetic mutations as an indicator, we are developing a molecular imaging technique to identify mutated genes non-invasively using the latest metabolic MRI.

Content of research

Hyperpolarized 13C nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a state-of-the-art technique for real-time visualization of metabolic reactions in vivo by temporarily amplifying the MRI signal of any compound labeled with 13C tens of thousands of times. It is expected to be a dream molecular imaging technology that can acquire signals from deep inside the body, which is difficult with optical imaging without radiation exposure like PET/CT.
Cells become cancerous through the accumulation of genetic mutations, and the type of mutation greatly influences the response to cancer therapy. Many cancer-causing mutations are associated with characteristic metabolic changes. Hyperpolarized 13C MRI can be used to non-invasively identify mutated genes in tumors by looking at specific metabolic changes.

  • Fig. 1 Concept of genetic mutation imaging using hyperpolarized 13C MRI: Mutant genes are identified based on the production of characteristic metabolites by the target mutant gene product, or by the loss or reduction of metabolic reactions that should occur.

Potential for social implementation

  • ・Instantaneous diagnosis of cancer
  • ・Identification of genetic mutations in tumors
  • ・Visualization of pharmacokinetics and metabolism

Appealing points to industry and local governments

Metabolic imaging by hyperpolarized 13C MRI has already been shown to be useful in two clinical trials of prostate cancer diagnosis in the United States. The current 13C excitation system based on dynamic nuclear polarization is very expensive and profitability is an issue, but we are developing a fully automated 13C excitation system based on parahydrogen addition reaction to reduce the clinical cost to one tenth.