Respiratory Research

Translational Imaging Group

Aim & Expertise

We aim to develop novel magnetic resonance imaging techniques in our micro-imaging laboratory and ‘translate’ these concepts to the pre-clinical setting. Our research is at the interface between chemistry, physics, material science and the biomedical sciences, compelling our group to take a truly multi-dispensary approach to research. Our particular interests are to use hyperpolarized noble gases to investigate pulmonary diseases.

Translational Imaging Group

Research issue: Pulmonary MRI

One person in seven is affected by lung disease in the UK but, in stark contrast to a 50% reduction in deaths from ischaemic heart diseases since the mid eighties, the percentile of pulmonary disease inflicted deaths has improved little during this period. The first significant advance in lung functional diagnostics in decades comes from hyperpolarized (hp) 3He and 129Xe MRI. The high MR signal intensity of the hp noble gases, obtained through laser-based methods, allows for lung functional MRI contrast. Methodological development of hp pulmonary MRI is a quest for higher signal intensity and better spatial resolution but  also a pursuit for novel sources of disease indicative contrast.

What we are doing about...

1. Development of novel MRI methodology

We have made a number of innovations in hyperpolarization methodology to improve and simplify the production of hyperpolarized 83Kr and 129Xe for use in biomedical applications.

Our recent efforts have enabled the first demonstration of surface quadrupolar relaxation as a source of contrast for pulmonary MRI with hyperpolarized 83Kr. The new methodology has been extended to hyperpolarized 129Xe to validate our ex vivo rodent lung technique for functional pulmonary MRI.

2. Translation of novel MRI methodology to preclinical and clinical applications

The University of Notingham is a unique place for hyperpolarized noble gas MRI because we have, or are currently setting up, all modalities from fundamental research at the Sir Peter Manfield Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, to pre clinical MRI with a state of the art 7T animal MRI scanner to our own hyperpolarized lung imaging facility (HILF) located at the School of Medicine.

Current projects

Professor Meersmann is the pioneer of using hyperpolarized 83Kr as a contrast agent in biomedical applications. 83Kr is a quadrupolar noble gas isotope (spin I = 9/2) that has demonstrated surface sensitivity in model systems and has promise as a new biomarker for lung disease.

Studies of surface modifications, including chemical changes, temperature, surface-to-volume changes, and co-adsorbing species, have shown substantial changes in the relaxation properties of 83Kr leading to its continued development as a biomarker of lung disease. Initial work with 83Kr has focused on excised lungs producing relaxation studies and single inhalation MRI results.

Currently we are the only research group working with hyperpolarized 83Kr for basic scientific development as well as collaborating with medical and clinical groups to bringing hyperpolarized 83Kr into the pre-clinical setting. 

In addition to the work with 83Kr the Translational Imaging Group is using hyperpolarized 129Xe to validate our ex vivo technique that may prove to be a worthwhile step in evaluating disease models in animals. Currently the group is investigating asthma models in collaboration with the group of Dr. Gisli Jenkins.

The Translational Imaging Group is also currently constructing a new 83Kr and 129Xe hyperpolarizer that will be used in future in vivo animal studies.


Thomas Meersmann, Zackary I. Cleveland, Karl F. Stupic, Galina E. Pavlovskaya, ‘NUCLEAR ELECTRIC QUADRUPOLAR PROPERTIES OF HYPERPOLARIZED GASES TO PROBE SURFACES AND INTERFACES’, US Patent No. 7,576,538, issued August 18, 2009

Key publications

Karl F. Stupic, Nancy D. Elkins, Galina E. Pavlovskaya, John E. Repine and T. Meersmann, “Effects of Pulmonary Inflation on Hyperpolarized Krypton-83 Magnetic Resonance T1 Relaxation.”, Physics in Medicine and Biology, 56 (2011) 3731-3748

Joseph S. Six, Theodore Hughes – Riley, Karl F. Stupic, Galina E. Pavlovskaya, and Thomas Meersmann, Pathway to cryogen free production of hyperpolarized krypton-83 and xenon-129, Public Library of Sciences PLOS-ONE, 7, (2012), e49927_1-16.

View more publications under group members' individual profiles.




 EmailThomas Meersman, Chair in Translational Imaging

Group members









Division of Respiratory Medicine, The School of Medicine

The University of Nottingham
Clinical Sciences Building
Nottingham City Hospital
Hucknall Road
Nottingham, NG7 2UH

telephone: +44 (0) 115 82 31317