New portable nuclear MR may help solve global tuberculosis problem

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | July 20, 2016
Molecular Imaging MRI Population Health
Nuclear MR (NMR) systems are large and expensive, but engineers at Cambridge Consultants have developed an affordable NMR that’s no bigger than a shoe box. The medical device company, WaveGuide Corporation, is working with them to use these portable NMR scanners to address the global tuberculosis (TB) problem.

One third of the world’s population is infected with TB, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The two companies are developing the portable scanner so that it can be used for point-of-care testing for the disease in developing countries and geographically remote locations.

The standard way TB is tested in developing countries involves taking a sputum sample and culturing it in a central lab. The process can take weeks for the TB bacilli to grow, the results are often inaccurate, and the test cannot detect drug-resistant strains of TB.
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On the contrary, NMR is a faster and more sensitive test. The portable NMR generates results in less than 30 minutes with 95 percent accuracy and it can detect drug-resistant TB, which means that the appropriate treatment can be administered right away.

At the center of the portable NMR is WaveGuide’s patented chipset, coupled with very small magnets that are a fraction of the size of those found in conventional lab equipment. The medical staff doesn’t need extensive training to operate it because all they have to do is insert a single-use cartridge containing the sputum sample.

The technology is also being adapted for the detection and monitoring of ovarian and other cancers. The current tests involve attaching microscopic iron particles to circulating tumor cells and using magnets to draw them out of the blood sample.

The technology may also be useful for identifying counterfeit drugs, and has the potential to be used for industrial applications like oil and gas detection and analysis.

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