Invited Speaker: Kurt Wüthrich

Start date:August 9, 2018 at 16:30

NMR and MRI in 2018 – Fruits from Two Centuries of Basic Research

NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) presents a nice illustration of the important role of fundamental research for improved quality of human life. At the outset of today’s lecture, we will consider what is expected today from applications of the NMR principle in medical diagnosis and in biological and biomedical research. Then the roots in basic research will be explored which enabled these present-day applications. It all started in the 19th century and for his work in the 1890s, Pieter Zeeman shared the 1902 Physics Nobel Prize with Hendrik Antoon Lorentz “in recognition of the extraordinary service they rendered by their researches into the influence of magnetism upon radiation phenomena”. In 1952, Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the description of the NMR experiment, which detects transitions between the “Zeeman levels” of isotopes with non-zero nuclear spin quantum number. After two decades of NMR applications for fundamental studies in physics and as an analytical tool in chemistry, the early 1970s saw novel concepts and advances in instrumentation and computation, which laid the foundations for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is today a key technique in medical diagnosis (2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield) and for the use of NMR spectroscopy in structural chemistry and biology (Nobel Prizes in Chemistry to Richard R. Ernst 1991 and KW 2002). Fundamental understanding of these advances was greatly helped by Albert Einstein’s 1905 treatise of the Brownian motion described by the English botanist Robert Brown in 1827, which leads to a deeper understanding of NMR with solutions, including body fluids.