NMR of laser-polarized xenon in human blood

A. Bifone, Y. Q. Song, R. Seydoux, R. E. Taylor, B. M. Goodson, T. Pietrass, T. F. Budinger, G. Navon, A. Pines*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By means of optical pumping with laser light it is possible to enhance the nuclear spin polarization of gaseous xenon by four to five orders of magnitude. The enhanced polarization has allowed advances in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), including polarization transfer to molecules and imaging of lungs and other void spaces. A critical issue for such applications is the delivery of xenon to the sample while maintaining the polarization. Described herein is an efficient method for the introduction of laser-polarized xenon into systems of biological and medical interest for the purpose of obtaining highly enhanced NMR/MRI signals. Using this method, we have made the first observation of the time-resolved process of xenon penetrating the red blood cells in fresh human blood-the xenon residence time constant in the red blood cells was measured to be 20.4 ± 2 ms. The potential of certain biologically compatible solvents for delivery of laser-polarized xenon to tissues for NMR/MRI is discussed in light of their respective relaxation and partitioning properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12932-12936
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - 12 Nov 1996


  • laser-polarized xenon
  • optical pumping


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