One of the earliest stories that I wrote for iTWire was IBM's atomic art on display which showed the letters I-B-M spelled out using individual Xenon atoms, painstakingly put in place using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM).
Well, IBM research scientists have continued to push microscopy to its limits, and in collaboration with the Center for Probing the Nanoscale at Stanford University have just demonstrated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with volume resolution 100 million times finer than conventional MRI.
Before continuing, I should disclose that my interest in all this is not just as a once chemistry and science teacher but also as an IBM retiree who's very proud of the ongoing scientific achievements of my old employer. If you're of a similar mind, here's a feed to IBM's work in chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, materials and mathematical sciences, physics and services sciences, management & engineering:
IBM Research has a distinguished history in developing microscopes for
nanoscale imaging and science. IBM researchers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer
received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics for their invention of the scanning
tunneling microscope, which can image individual atoms on electrically
Additionally, IBM has a track record dating back to the 1950s of improving healthcare through scientific achievements and collaboration with healthcare companies. In the last decade, IBM has developed a national digital mammography archive with the University of Pennsylvania (founded by polymath Benjamin Franklin); developed a clinical trial participant system with the famous Mayo Clinic.
IBM has also collaborated with The Scripps Research Institute to understand how influenza viruses mutate and proactively develop treatments; collaborated with European universities to develop better methods to decide on antiretroviral therapies for HIV; launched the World Community Grid, which has done projects on cancer, aids, dengue fever.
Among other things, IBM played a major role in developing the heart lung machine, invented the first continuous blood separator, used to treat critically ill leukemia patients. IBM has also helped develop the field of relaxometry, which plays a role in medical magnetic resonance imagery (MRI), and invented the method for using excimer lasers that eventually became photorefractive (LASIK) eye surgery. To this day, IBM continues to make significant contributions to healthcare through technology innovations. Read more at IBM's healthcare and life sciences portal.
The researchers have just published their results (13 January 2009) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
This very significant step forward in tools for molecular biology and nanotechnology promises the ability to study complex 3D structures at the nano scale.
By extending MRI to such fine resolution, the scientists have created a microscope that, with further development, may ultimately be powerful enough to unravel the structure and interactions of proteins, paving the way for new advances in personalized healthcare and targeted medicine.
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