Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy for Molecular Imaging

Case ID:

This technology involves using refined Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy (MRFM) to study biological systems such as isolated cells, sub-cellular organelles, and other sub-cellular structures or cellular receptors and proteins at resolutions ranging from 1 micron to 1 angstrom.  MRFM has the potential to significantly impact biomedical research and biotechnology including the potential to replace x-ray crystallography by directly imaging single-copy molecules.

Background & Unmet Need:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has had a revolutionary impact on non-invasive imaging both for medical purposes and for microscopic studies of biological systems.  However, the relative insensitivity of inductive detection via radiofrequency coils prevents conventional MRI techniques from achieving resolution better than 10 microns.  Recent theoretical and experimental work has shown that any magnetic resonance experiment, originally performed using conventional techniques, can also be performed using microscale mechanical resonators and the technology of force microscopy.  The revolutionary aspect of mechanical detection and associated novel approaches is dramatically improved sensitivity, and now angstrom-scale resolution is feasible.  It is estimated that the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries spend at least $312 million to move a new medicine from the laboratory to US patients.  Crystallography is involved in the very early stages of the drug discovery process where such procedures require a significant amount of time to yield usable results.  Current state of the art structural biology techniques such as x-ray or neutron crystallography can require 6 months to 2 years to obtain the initial structure of a single large protein.


Technology Description:

This proposal presents an innovative approach for development of an imaging device capable of examining biological systems at subcellular and molecular levels.  This technology will impact pharmaceutical drug development, the biotechnology industry, and medical research by competing with x-ray crystallography in the research field.  Additionally this technology offers the potential for direct chemical-specific imaging of single-copy molecular structures in their native state in a time frame of approximately 24 hours.


Commercial Applications:

·         Development of powerful new diagnostic probe for pathology and histology


Stage of Development:

Preliminary studies done


Competitive Advantages:

·         Chemical specificity allows evaluation  of tissue biochemistry without the use of stains

·         3D imaging of biological systems with high sensitivity and high resolution, potentially speeding up diagnostic process

·         Noncontacting/nondestructive probe

·         Provides faster results than existing x-ray or neutron crystallography


Intellectual Property Status:

Patent application filed


Related Publications or Citations of Work:

Hammel PC., Zhang Z., Moore GJ., Roukes ML.  (1995) Sub-surface imaging with the magnetic resonance force microscope. Journal of Low Temp. Physics. Vol. 101, nos. 1-2.

Zhang Z., Hammel PC., Moore GJ. (1996) Application of a novel rf coil design to the magnetic resonance force microscope. Rev. Sci. Instrum. Vol 67, No. 9.


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Joan Dunbar
Associate Vice President for Technology Commercialization
Wayne State University
(313) 577-5542
Stanley Fricke
Gregory Moore