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$1 million in stimulus funds to improve technologies and reduce MRI health risks

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Houston, TXHouston's Rice University, in conjunction with the Texas Heart institute, is the recipient of a $1 million Challenge Grant from the National Institute of Health to improve the sensitivity of current MRI technology while lowering the chance of MRI health risks, the most common of which is the toxic metal known as gadolinium.

The grant will largely help perfect contrast agents initially invented by Rice in 2005 that increase the sensitivity of MRI scans, allowing doctors to more easily and effectively diagnose patients.

Gadolinium has been linked to more than 200 cases of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis, a potentially fatal disease that distends or discolors skin, weakens the muscles and tightens the connective tissues between joints, inhibiting a person's ability to move.

Current MRI procedure wraps gadolinium in a sheet of organic molecules known as chelates, but Rice is studying new carbon tube technologies to better insulate the metal's toxicity from patients undergoing MRI scans.

Current studies indicate that these Gadonanotubes are at least 40 times more effective at improving MRI signals than previous contrast agents.

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