Toward Molecular-Scale MRI

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Science  01 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6119, pp. 529-530
DOI: 10.1126/science.1233222

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a mainstay of medical diagnostics, allowing nondestructive imaging inside opaque objects with high resolution. There have been many attempts to use MRI to image small objects such as living cells, because the resolution can be well below the optical diffraction limit. However, the detection sensitivity of conventional MRI falls rapidly for smaller feature sizes, making it impossible to resolve features smaller than a few micrometers with this method. Two reports in this issue, by Mamin et al. on page 557 (1) and Staudacher et al. on page 561 (2), demonstrate the ability to detect volumes of a few cubic nanometers, comparable to the size of large protein molecules. These independent studies are a crucial step toward molecular-scale magnetic resonance imaging.