The NMR Facility at Mayo currently supports three main fields of NMR biomedical application: Study of the structure of biomacromolecules in solution by high field, high resolution NMR spectroscopy:

  • At present, NMR spectroscopy is the only technique that can provide detailed solution structure of small proteins and polynucleotides.
  • NMR spectroscopy of small laboratory animals (in vivo NMR) and cell cultures:
    Due to the noninvasive character of the main interactions, NMR is very suitable for in vivo studies. It provides information on the composition and concentration of metabolites in body fluids, cells, tissues, and organs. In vivo NMR spectra are very useful for monitoring subtle metabolic changes.
  • NMR imaging of small laboratory animals:
    The NMR experiment, when performed in a magnetic field with a controlled gradient, provides spatial distribution of observed spins, i.e. the NMR image, rather than NMR spectrum. The NMR images give noninvasive pictures of cross-sections of biological objects. Combined with spectroscopy, NMR images give a detailed map of the physiological state of a studied model.

For example, we are currently investigating how the drug levamisole helps the drug 5-FU extend the life of some patients who have undergone surgery for colon cancer. For those studies, we use nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and follow the behavior of the drugs in human colon cancers growing in mice. We are monitoring the nuclear magnetic resonance signal of phosphorous and fluorine nuclei in tumor xenografts in mice. Phosphorous is a natural part of living systems. Fluorine is a major component of the drug 5-FU. By phosphorous NMR, we follow the viability of tumor cells and by fluorine NMR, the concentration and metabolism of the added drug 5-FU. The results of these studies will help determine how the two drugs interact in the body and may eventually lead to further improvements in therapy.