One central feature of the FETopen project CONQUER (Contrast by quadrupole enhanced relaxation) will explore new contrast mechanisms with the potential to push magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) beyond its limits towards a powerful modality for molecular imaging. This shall be achieved by exploiting the cross relaxation between 1H and large quadrupolar nuclei (QN) for contrast agent (CA) design. The main objective is to synthesize bio-compatible QN compounds and nano-particles (NPs), high efficiency and manifold degrees of freedom in the design of smart properties, such as the ability to switch the contrast on and off by changing the magnetic field or chemical binding (e.g. targeting). The NPs will be tailored based on quantum-mechanical simulations. Sensitivity and contrast switching will be demonstrated with MRI in cell cultures. This highly interdisciplinary project combines expertise in quantum physics, chemical and biomedical engineering, material characterisation as well as nanotoxicology.
The Institute of Medical Engineering, beside coordination, is responsible for two tasks: (1) Zero field nuclear quadrupole resonance spectroscopy (ZF-NQRS) and (2) imaging experiments with the final CAs in a clinical MR tomograph which will be equipped with a dedicated field cycling insert. The following chapters give a short overview about the NQR activities at the institute. For further information about NQR see e.g. http://www.quad-nmr.de/