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Magnetic imaging probes biotechnological frontiers

Nuclear magnetic resonance, (NMR) apart from its well-known application in the field of patient medical imaging, can also be used for basic biological and chemical research. Two NMR probes have been developed by the current project that will help look for solutions of biological problems that cannot be attacked by other means.
Magnetic imaging probes biotechnological frontiers
With the aid of nuclear magnetic resonance, structures within a solution can be determined. It can provide pictures of dynamic processes related to function and folding and enable the study of biomolecular interactions that are essential for understanding the mechanisms of cellular response to environmental, developmental and growth signals.

The growing interest of biologists and chemists into magnetic imaging has excelled research in the field and two new NMR probes have been developed. One 800 MHz high resolution 1H probe for large bandwidth excitation, (HP probe). A second, the shuttle probe, at 600 MHz high resolution to enable fast sample transfer. Technically the two probes offer more than the standard features. The HP probe allows very short, 90-degree pulse at intermediate radio frequency power and, due to its small coils of 3mm diameter, has a high-magnetic filling factor. Allowable excitation bandwidths are of the order of 100 kHz. The shuttle probe on the other hand, has been specifically designed to allow fast pneumatic, back and forth movement of the sample, from positions of high magnetic fields near the centre of the cryomagnet, and correspondingly high resonance frequencies, to positions inside the cryomagnet, but at much lower fields and consequently lower frequencies.

These new probes, with their heightened sensitivity, will aid the launching of new experiments and initiate further applications in the field of cell biology and chemistry. The short pulse, flat baseline probe, capable of detecting large spectral widths will offer effective analysis of paramagnetic proteins. Conversely, the shuttle probe allows for polarisation and detection at high fields, but can measure heteronuclear dipole-dipole interactions at low magnetic fields equally well.

The information on magnetic structure gathered by the probes will help resolve an important issue. Structural determination of proteins is basically hindered by the hydrogen bonds. Detection of the location of hydrogen bonds is now possible with the probes since quenched dipolar couplings between different nuclei can be detected and this leads to direct detection of the hydrogen bonds.

Researchers in the field of NMR applications to structural biology and structural genomics in academia, as well as in industry will be the beneficiaries of this new technology. Project partners hold the exclusive rights for the developed probes and are seeking market agreements for their production.
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