Our research will develop new technology that will be applied (i) to the early diagnosis and staging of disease and (ii) detection of tissue responses to therapy, with the long term objective of identifying appropriate personalised therapies.
The central theme of our work is the development of new insight and applications in chemical biology systems; our research line focuses on Bioengineering solutions using Chemistry and Physics tools to study Biological problems. In particular, we develop Magnetic Resonance (MR) molecular imaging methods to study the biochemical pathways in bioengineered systems and in vivo.
MR is already a well-known clinical technique in the form of 3D, non–destructive imaging of tissue and fluid composition in vivo (MRI). As a further benefit, MR spectroscopic imaging is chemically specific and can thus directly relate response of a single (or many) chemical compound to biological events in biofluids, cell suspensions in vitro, excised tissue and perfused organs ex vivo, animal models in vivo and clinical patients. The rich variety of MR experiments developed over the past decades permits quantification of metabolites concentrations, diffusion rates, perfusion, energetics and tissue oxygenation. These parameters represent a steady state fingerprint of the sample studied, which encodes physiological and pathological factors.
Our research goes beyond these techniques by using hyperpolarised MR (DNP-MR) to measure kinetics (fluxes) of metabolic interconversion and enzymatic reactions in vivo. DNP-enhanced 13C MR is possible thanks to a sample preparation procedure that enhances the signal thousands of times beyond conventional MR, saving a factor of ~ 100.000 in measurement time. Only ~30 sites worldwide currently own the equipment to prepare 13C MR substrates this way (so-called “DNP polarisers”). The only two polarisers in Spain are both in Barcelona (one in our laboratory) and available to us. We also have the specialised knowledge required to drive the research and exploit the potential of these Barcelona infrastructure.
1. HyperSense polarizer at the University of Barcelona, Spain. This machine prepares the hyperpolarised tracer so that, upon injection into the sample or subject of interest, we can follow enzymatic reactions in real-time and in situ using hyper-intese signals in the NMR spectrometer or MRI scanner.
2. Pulsar bencthop NMR spectrometer in our lab at IBEC.
3. Alba Herrero preparing cell lines for our research.