Mapping position of spins in human

Living things are highly organized into structures that can be examined on a scale. Atom is the smallest and most fundamental unit of matter. It consists of a nucleus, and protons surrounded by electrons. Atoms form molecules which are chemical structures consisting of at least two atoms held together by chemical bonds. Molecules are organized into organelles, and a group of organelles make up cells. Cells make up tissues, tissues make up organs, organs are grouped into organ systems and then finally, organ systems make up a living organism.


The most abundant molecule in a living organism is water. The organization of living systems is so complex and in most cases, details beyond tissues are not visible to the human eye. Science has made it possible for a man to visualize molecules in 3-D conformation. Several techniques can be used in the development of these visualisations. These include ultrasound, CT scan, crystallography and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance among others.

Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield discovered MRI and showed that NMR could be used to generate multi-dimensional images. Lauterbur was the first to demonstrate magnetic resonance imaging then Mansfield soon improved the resolution and speed of MRI images. An MRI takes pictures of places in your body that contain water, and the detail in these images comes from the ways that different tissues interfere with the electromagnetic waves coming from water molecules.

Water tends to dissociate into hydroxide ions and protons. These protons are usually in a spin creating a small magnetic charge. When a strong magnetic field is introduced as in MRI, the proton changes direction and align to the field of the strong magnetic field. When radiofrequency is introduced to the proton, it changes direction until the radio frequency is turned off. It realigns to its original direction releasing photons which can be detected by MRI machine.

MRI generates information in the form of images using the intensity of radiation of re-emitted photons from various parts of the body. Protons in dense or solid structures tend to be more or less prone to misalignment when the disrupting radio waves are applied to the body’s tissue, resulting in a lower number of re-emitted photons coming from that region and thus a darker area in the resulting image. Different tissues and organs radiate different intensity of photons. Professor Raymond Damadian proposed that MRI could be used in the detection of tumour cells.

Professor Lauterbur inspired by Damadian’s idea, introduced linear gradients oriented in different directions to give a multidimensional image of the NMR signal.

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