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Imaging technique could shed new light on Alzheimer's disease

'No one has looked at these images before. We don't know what we're going to see. So it's very, very exciting'

A new brain imaging technique being examined by a researcher in Thunder Bay, Ont. could help in the search for a treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

Mitch Albert, a researcher at Lakehead University, and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute, is receiving over $700,000 from the Weston Brain Institute to fund his three year study of the use of hyperpolarized xenon gas to get a clearer picture of the brain when using an MRI machine.

When patients inhale the gas, and it makes its way to the brain through the bloodstream, the quality of the images is ten times better than those taken using a regular MRI scan, said Albert.

"It's a new window on the brain," he said.

In order to get the hyperpolarized xenon gas to the brain, patients must inhale the gas as they lie in the MRI machine.

The xenon gas (which acts like a general anesthetic at higher concentrations), is harmless, he said, and is exhaled by the patients in a matter of minutes.


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A revolution in lung function diagnostics

'Since lung diseases tend to be complex, imaging is a crucial diagnostic tool. While computed tomography has become the standard modality, which is frequently used outside hospital settings, specialised MRI diagnostics remains the preserve of large university medical centres.'

Until recently, lung MRI was considered a difficult procedure. Now, new methods enable lung function measuring, particularly gas exchange, in the MR scanner. With his team, Professor Frank Wacker, Director of the Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology at the Medical School Hanover, focuses on this research.
Report: Marcel Rasch

Usually, a general practitioner diagnoses pulmonary hypertension, rather than a hospital-based specialist. The patient is referred to a pneumologist who charts the further course of action, which might include a surgical intervention or balloon pulmonary angioplasty (BAP). Imaging is a pillar of the diagnostic work-up, but CT has turned out to be inadequate to detect so-called web stenosis in the pulmonary vessels. This is where MRI comes in, which today offers local lung function assessment supplementing CT.

A milestone in pulmonary research
‘We are still charting unknown territory,’ Wacker concedes, ‘but the research results are promising.’ He and his team, headed by Professor Jens Vogel-Claussen at the Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, are exploring potential uses of MRI in lung function diagnostics. ‘MRI diagnostics now offers a method to not only assess tissue change and morphology but also the function of different lung sections and to quantify blood flow,’ Wacker explains. ‘Beyond knowing how much blood is passing through which lung section we need to assess ventilation and gas exchange.’

The fact that gas exchange can be measured in MRI is nothing short of a revolution in lung function diagnostics. ‘We use hyperpolarised xenon to visualise the gas exchange,’ he explains. In a first step the xenon has to be processed in a polariser for the MRI scanner to achieve high SNR. The Hanover Medical School works closely with the Fraunhofer Institute ITEM in Hanover to show the path of the gas and the speed of diffusion from the alvioli into the blood circulation.

‘Basically we use two gases: fluorine shows the distribution of tidal air. However, this gas does not penetrate the alveoli – which can be an advantage as well as a drawback,’ Wacker points out.


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Polarean Delivers New High-throughput Hyperpolarizer with 40+% Xenon Polarization - September, 2015

Polarean, Inc., a pioneer in hyperpolarized gas technology, announced today that it has delivered and installed its first Model 9820 129Xe Hyperpolarizer at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The 9820 model consistently produces xenon gas at 35-45% polarization with typical production rates of 1-3 liters per hour.

"In the last three years, Polarean has improved the xenon polarization levels of its polarizers by a factor of four, commented Dr. Bastiaan Driehuys, Polarean's founder and Chief Scientific Officer. "Polarean's recently introduced 9820 model includes a 200 Watt narrowed linewidth laser coupled with a larger, redesigned optical cell. In combination, these two components dramatically improve the xenon polarization level and throughput. And, a newly designed higher capacity cryogenic collection system minimizes the polarization loss through the freeze-thaw cycle".

The new 9820 xenon polarizer continues Polarean's tradition of modular design, which enables ease of maintenance and upgradability. The company has a number of additional polarization improving upgrades under development, scheduled for introduction in the next 12-18 months.

Polarean's technology produces hyperpolarized inert xenon gas, used in conjunction with standard MRI to create high-resolution 3-dimensional functional maps of the human lung. This technique provides a unique and sensitive way to monitor extremely small changes in lung structure and function, and is used in basic and clinical research to study lung physiology and to monitor the efficacy of new drugs.

Higher levels of 129Xe polarization, such as those made possible by the 9820, provide researchers with additional flexibility. They can reduce the amount of xenon to be inhaled, without compromising image quality, and this is especially important in pediatric studies. These advancements let researchers achieve even higher image quality or accelerate their clinical research workflow.

Polarean's research equipment is currently in use at leading academic research centers in North America and Europe.

ABOUT POLAREAN®
Polarean®, Inc. began operations in 2012, after securing all assets and intellectual property for hyperpolarized gas MRI from GE Healthcare. Located in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, Polarean® designs and manufactures equipment for production of hyperpolarized xenon or helium gases. When used in conjunction with MRI, these gases offer a fundamentally new and non-invasive functional imaging platform. Current investigational uses include early diagnosis of respiratory diseases as well as monitoring progression and therapeutic response. In addition, xenon gas exhibits solubility and signal properties that enable it to be imaged within other tissues and organs as well. Polarean® hyperpolarization systems are currently sold in the United States and internationally for research and investigational applications only.

Polarean® Technology
The central equipment required for hyperpolarized gas MRI is a polarizer. Using circularly polarized laser light, the polarizer transforms the inert, stable noble gas isotopes 3He and 129Xe into their hyperpolarized states. This process leaves the gases chemically unchanged, while their nuclei are magnetically aligned. The resulting MRI signal is enhanced by a factor of ◊100,000, making direct imaging of gas molecules possible.

Nearly $550,000 in grants awarded to local businesses - December 03, 2014

RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker announced Wednesday the 13 recipients of innovation grants through the One North Carolina Small Business Fund.

All but two of these businesses are in Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough or Morrisville.

Federal funders for these grants include the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Army, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state matches up to half the federal money, with a $50,000 maximum per grant. The budget for this program is $2.5 million for 2015, according to a release from McCrory’s office.

Durham-based BioMarck Pharmaceuticals received $40,466 for its treatment to prevent and reverse Acute Lung Injury and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndromes (ARDS).

Keona Health of Chapel Hill received $50,000 for a call management system for diagnosing issues involving the elderly or persons with dementia.

Dignify Therapeutics LLC of Durham received $50,000 to develop the first drug for bladder control of patients with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and similar diseases that hamper bladder function.

EpiCypher, Inc. of Durham received $50,000 for developing a new protein process technology for cell research, enabling new detection methodologies for diverse human diseases such as cancer and immunodeficiency disorders.

Indexus Biomedical LLC of Morrisville received $50,000 for a new diagnosis and monitoring test for HIV, available at primary health providers’ offices and enabling earlier HIV detection and treatment.

Polarean Inc. of Durham received $50,000 for a new compact Magnetic Resonance Imaging system providing local medical diagnosis in drug trials.

Triangle BioSystems Inc. of Durham received $49,982 to create wireless and implantable neural microsystems, capable of recording and stimulating the central nervous system, muscle tissues, and others systems.

Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, Inc. of Chapel Hill received $50,000 for conducting preclinical and clinical development of gene transfer therapies to prevent cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.

HealthSpan Diagnostics, LLC of Chapel Hill received $50,000 to create a new blood test that evaluates kidneys for transplant suitability.

Mycosynthetix Inc. of Hillsborough received $50,000 for development of new fungal therapies to address infections from soil transmitted parasitic worms such as hookworm.

Cell Microsystems of Chapel Hill received $50,000 to explore the feasibility of new technologies for the isolation of single cells for broad applications in health, forensics, and basic research.

Polarean Unveils New Hyperpolarizer Features, Enables Users to Double Polarization Levels

Polarean, Inc., a pioneer in hyperpolarized gas technology, announced today that it has developed new technology to dramatically improve polarization rates. Polarean's new technology is now being offered as an upgrade kit to current owners of 9800 series Polarean Xenon Hyperpolarizers, enabling them to consistently reach polarization levels of 20-25%. Additional polarization improvements are underway, to be included in the new 9820 Series of Polarean Hyperpolarizers, available in mid-2015.

Polarean's hyperpolarization technology addresses a significant need in pulmonary research and drug development. The technology produces hyperpolarized inert xenon gas, used in conjunction with standard MRI imaging to create high resolution 3-dimensional images of the human lung. This technique is a unique way to monitor extremely small changes in lung structure and lung function, and is used in basic and clinical research to study lung physiology and to monitor the efficacy of new drugs.

Higher levels of polarization provide researchers with additional flexibility. They can reduce the amount of Xenon to be inhaled, without compromising image quality, and this is especially important in pediatric studies. Or, researchers can use the same amount of Xenon and achieve higher image quality.

”We have made significant improvements in our hyperpolarization technology, especially in the downstream recovery of polarized Xenon,” commented Dr. Bastiaan Driehuys, Polarean's founder and Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. Driehuys added, ”In addition, Polarean is developing a new generation of polarizers that not only include these downstream improvements, but also new optical cell designs and a more powerful laser. Together, these improvements will take our polarization and production levels even higher.” Polarean expects to launch this new line of hyperpolarizers in mid-2015.

Polarean's research equipment is currently in use at leading academic research centers in North America and Europe.



ABOUT POLAREAN®
Polarean®, Inc. began operations in 2012, after securing all assets and intellectual property for hyperpolarized gas MRI from GE Healthcare. Located in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, Polarean® designs and manufactures equipment for production of hyperpolarized xenon or helium gases. When used in conjunction with MRI, these gases offer a fundamentally new and non-invasive functional imaging platform. Current investigational uses include early diagnosis of respiratory diseases as well as monitoring progression and therapeutic response. In addition, xenon gas exhibits solubility and signal properties that enable it to be imaged within other tissues and organs as well. Polarean® hyperpolarization systems are currently sold in the United States and internationally for research and investigational applications only.

Polarean® Technology
The central equipment required for hyperpolarized gas MRI is a polarizer. Using circularly polarized laser light, the polarizer transforms the inert, stable noble gas isotopes 3He and 129Xe into their hyperpolarized states. This process leaves the gases chemically unchanged, while their nuclei are magnetically aligned. The resulting MRI signal is enhanced by a factor of ◊100,000, making direct imaging of gas molecules possible.

Additional Pediatric Research Sites Now Using Polarean's Hyperpolarized Xenon Imaging Technology - September, 2014

Durham, NC - September, 2014 -Polarean, Inc., a pioneer in hyperpolarized gas technology, announced today that The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Ontario and The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have both recently acquired Polarean Xenon hyperpolarization systems to conduct clinical research in pediatric lung disease.

Polarean's technology addresses a significant need in pulmonary research and drug development. The technology produces hyperpolarized inert xenon gas, used in conjunction with standard MRI imaging to create high resolution 3-dimensional images of the human lung. This technique is a unique way to monitor extremely small changes in lung structure and lung function, and is used in basic and clinical research to study lung physiology and to monitor the efficacy of new drugs.

“Hyperpolarized gas MRI enables us to accurately image the major airways down to the very smallest alveoli”, commented Dr. Giles Santyr, Senior Scientist in Physiology & Experimental Medicine at SickKids. “This equipment will allow us to better study a range of childhood pulmonary conditions without ionizing radiation”, added Dr. Jason Woods, Director of the Center for Pulmonary Imaging Research at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Because Polarean's technology does not rely on X-rays, CT scans or radioactive contrast agents, subjects can be scanned repeatedly to monitor small changes in lung function over time without the risk of radiation exposure.

“We are delighted to have these two new sites in the worldwide community of Polarean customers,” commented Dr. Bastiaan Driehuys, Polarean's founder and Chief Scientific Officer. “Each of these institutions is conducting important research in pediatric pulmonary disease and Polarean's equipment helps in that effort”.

In addition to these sites in Toronto and Cincinnati, Polarean's research equipment is in use at leading academic research centers in North America and Europe.



ABOUT POLAREAN®
Polarean®, Inc. began operations in 2012, after securing all assets and intellectual property for hyperpolarized gas MRI from GE Healthcare. Located in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, Polarean® designs and manufactures equipment for production of hyperpolarized xenon or helium gases. When used in conjunction with MRI, these gases offer a fundamentally new and non-invasive functional imaging platform. Current investigational uses include early diagnosis of respiratory diseases as well as monitoring progression and therapeutic response. In addition, xenon gas exhibits solubility and signal properties that enable it to be imaged within other tissues and organs as well. Polarean® hyperpolarization systems are currently sold in the United States and internationally for research and investigational applications only.

Polarean® Technology
The central equipment required for hyperpolarized gas MRI is a polarizer. Using circularly polarized laser light, the polarizer transforms the inert, stable noble gas isotopes 3He and 129Xe into their hyperpolarized states. This process leaves the gases chemically unchanged, while their nuclei are magnetically aligned. The resulting MRI signal is enhanced by a factor of ◊100,000, making direct imaging of gas molecules possible.

New MRI Approach Reveals Bronchiectasis’ Key Features Within the Lung - November, 2014

In an abstract presented during American Thoracic Society 2014 International Conference, entitled “Pulmonary Functional Imaging Of Bronchiectasis: A First Look At Ventilation Abnormalities And Their Relationship With Pulmonary Function And Symptoms,” S. Svenningsen and colleagues from the Robarts Research Institute at The University of Western Ontario in Canada presented their clinical evaluation in subjects with a clinical diagnosis of bronchiectasis using 3He MRI ventilation distribution for the first time.

According to the American Lung Foundation, Bronchiectasis is an abnormal stretching and enlarging of the lungs’ airways caused by mucus blockage. The blockage and accompanying infection causes inflammation, leading to the weakening and widening of the passages. The disease can develop at any age, usually beginning during childhood, but symptoms may not appear until much later. It can be congenital or can develop after birth as a result of injury or other diseases, like tuberculosis, pneumonia, and influenza. Some underlying conditions that damage the airways and increase lung infections can cause bronchiectasis such as cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia.

Bronchiectasis cannot be cured. However, with proper treatment, most people can live a normal life. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, abnormal chest sounds, daily production of large amounts of coughed up mucus, chest pain, and clubbing. Early detection is crucial in order to prevent the progression of lung damage. Prevention methods include: vaccinations for measles and pertussis; avoiding toxic fumes, gases, smoke and other substances that can harm the lungs; properly treating lung infections in children; avoiding inhaling small objects, and seeking prompt medical care if any of these occur.

Hyperpolarized gas magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides an in-vivo assessment of regional gas distribution in the lung and has the advantage of showing exactly where regional functional abnormalities occur. Previous studies in asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis have revealed heterogeneously distributed lung function abnormalities that are associated with pulmonary function and symptoms, however, 3He gas distribution has not been evaluated in non-CF bronchiectasis.

In order to evaluate 3He MRI ventilation distribution, subjects with a clinical diagnosis of bronchiectasis were used to test the hypothesized that MRI pulmonary function abnormalities are related to pulmonary function and symptom scores. The team of researchers evaluated 14 (aged 45-85 years) patients using spirometry, plethysmography, the six-minute walk test (6MWT), hyper polarized 3He MRI, high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT), Patient Evaluation Questionnaire (PEQ), and the St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ).

Using linear regression and Pearson correlations the most novel finding from this study is that MRI heterogeneously distributed ventilation abnormalities are strongly related to worse pulmonary function and symptom scores. This is a pioneering study as this was the first time this method is used in this particular clinical population. The new findings can help physicians to have a better understanding of the key characteristics of Bronchiectasis in diagnosis and treatment.

ABOUT POLAREAN®
Polarean®, Inc. began operations in 2012, after securing all assets and intellectual property for hyperpolarized gas MRI from GE Healthcare. Located in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, Polarean® designs and manufactures equipment for production of hyperpolarized xenon or helium gases. When used in conjunction with MRI, these gases offer a fundamentally new and non-invasive functional imaging platform. Current investigational uses include early diagnosis of respiratory diseases as well as monitoring progression and therapeutic response. In addition, xenon gas exhibits solubility and signal properties that enable it to be imaged within other tissues and organs as well. Polarean® hyperpolarization systems are currently sold in the United States and internationally for research and investigational applications only.

Polarean® Technology
The central equipment required for hyperpolarized gas MRI is a polarizer. Using circularly polarized laser light, the polarizer transforms the inert, stable noble gas isotopes 3He and 129Xe into their hyperpolarized states. This process leaves the gases chemically unchanged, while their nuclei are magnetically aligned. The resulting MRI signal is enhanced by a factor of ◊100,000, making direct imaging of gas molecules possible.

Polarean Expands Capabilities in Hyperpolarized Gas Technology - August, 2013
Hyperpolarized Gas MRI: A Unique and Valuable Pulmonary Research Tool

Durham, NC - August, 2013 -a pioneer in hyperpolarized gas technology, announced today that the Canadian Patent Office has allowed two additional patents on the Company’s modular hyperpolarized gas MRI technology. This expands the worldwide patent coverage already provided by Polarean’s patent estate of 34 patent families, acquired from GE Healthcare in early 2012. Polarean manufactures products based on this patented technology for sale worldwide to basic researchers and pharmaceutical companies conducting clinical research.

Polarean’s technology addresses a significant need in pulmonary research and drug development. The technology produces hyperpolarized inert gas, used in conjunction with standard MRI imaging to create high resolution 3-dimensional images of the human lung. This technique is a unique way to monitor extremely small changes in lung structure and lung function, and is used in basic and clinical research to study lung physiology and to monitor the efficacy of new drugs. Because the technique does not rely on X-rays, CAT scans or radioactive contrast agents, subjects can be scanned repeatedly to monitor small changes in lung structure over time without the risk of radiation exposure.

Since acquiring the technology and beginning commercial operations in 2012, Polarean has supplied its polarizers to a number of leading researchers in the US and Europe. “We’re pleased to be able to support basic researchers and pharmaceutical companies with our polarizer systems,” says Dr. Bastiaan Driehuys, the company’s founder and Chief Scientific Officer. “They’re built to be flexible and modular, accommodating the varied research needs of our customer base.” The Biomedical Research Imaging Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a recent adopter of the technology. Assistant Professor Rosa Tamara Branca has glowing praise for both the system and the Polarean team. “Installation and training were done in one week and we were able to run our first hyperpolarized xenon gas experiment soon after without any delay,” says Branca.

The commercial supply of xenon and helium hyperpolarizers for pulmonary research is just the beginning for Polarean, because the potential utility for hyperpolarized gas MRI goes far beyond lung disease. Dr. Driehuys continues, “We have always felt that hyperpolarized gas MRI is an enormously powerful research platform. The potential applications are limited only by the imagination of the scientists who use it. We are thrilled to finally be able to expand the access to the scientific and pharmaceutical community, and in doing so, we expect to see not only great progress in imaging lung disease, but novel applications in molecular imaging in other organs too.”

Contact Polarean, Inc. to learn more about the applications of hyperpolarized noble gases. www.polarean.com

ABOUT POLAREAN®
Polarean®, Inc. began operations in 2012, after securing all assets and intellectual property for hyperpolarized gas MRI from GE Healthcare. Located in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, Polarean® designs and manufactures equipment for production of hyperpolarized xenon or helium gases. When used in conjunction with MRI, these gases offer a fundamentally new and non-invasive functional imaging platform. Current investigational uses include early diagnosis of respiratory diseases as well as monitoring progression and therapeutic response. In addition, xenon gas exhibits solubility and signal properties that enable it to be imaged within other tissues and organs as well. Polarean® hyperpolarization systems are currently sold in the United States and internationally for research and investigational applications only.

Polarean® Technology
The central equipment required for hyperpolarized gas MRI is a polarizer. Using circularly polarized laser light, the polarizer transforms the inert, stable noble gas isotopes 3He and 129Xe into their hyperpolarized states. This process leaves the gases chemically unchanged, while their nuclei are magnetically aligned. The resulting MRI signal is enhanced by a factor of ◊100,000, making direct imaging of gas molecules possible.