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Translational Molecular Imaging

Division of Translational Molecular Imaging

Dr. Leif Schröder

While conventional MRI requires large amounts of spin-labelled reporters like water, novel agents use the available magnetization in a highly efficient way. This enables selective cell labelling with hyperpolarized spin ensembles and yields a switchable image contrast at unprecedented sensitivity. Illustration credits: Barth van Rossum, FMP.

Research of the Translational Molecular Imaging (TMI) Division focuses on the development and characterization of targeted imaging reporters for translating novel detection techniques into diagnostic applications in oncology. We aim to visualize key molecular changes in cancer onset and progression and capitalize on the strong interdisciplinary magnetic resonance tradition in Heidelberg. To this end, we explore novel approaches based on advanced NMR techniques like spin hyperpolarization and saturation transfer techniques in exchange-coupled spin systems. Our interdisciplinary team comprises members from a diverse background and strives to combine key techniques from physics, biochemical engineering, and molecular biology to develop the next generation of ultra-sensitive imaging reporters. We also investigate biomaterials science aspects of established contrast agents with respect to their biosafety and the understanding of their biochemical fate.

The newly founded division is endorsed by the Dieter Morszeck Foundation and engages also in highly explorative programs with international collaboration partners. The paradigm shifts pursued in our lab aim to combine the advantages of non-invasive imaging with the high sensitivity and specificity of functionalized reporters. This will eventually close the sensitivity gap between modalities of nuclear medicine like PET/SPECT and MRI without using ionizing radiation or making compromises in penetration depth like in optical methods.


Dr. Leif Schröder
Translational Molecular Imaging (E280)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 – 42 2432

Selected Publications

  • Schnurr M, Volk I, Nikolenko H, Winkler L, Dathe M, Schröder L. (2020). Xenon MRI: Functionalized Lipopeptide Micelles as Highly Efficient NMR Depolarization Seed Points for Targeted Cell Labelling in Xenon MRI Adv Biosys., 4, 2070034
  • Kunth, M.; Lu, G. J.; Witte, C.; Shapiro, M. G.; Schröder, L. (2018). Protein Nanostructures Produce Self-Adjusting Hyperpolarized Magnetic Resonance Imaging Contrast through Physical Gas Partitioning. ACS Nano, 12 (11), 10939–10948
  • Lakshmanan, A.; Lu, G. J.; Farhadi, A.; Nety, S. P.; Kunth, M.; Lee-Gosselin, A.; Maresca, D.; Bourdeau, R. W.; Yin, M.; Yan, J.; Witte, C.; Malounda, D.; Foster, F. S.; Schröder, L.; Shapiro, M. G. (2017). Preparation of Biogenic Gas Vesicle Nanostructures for Use as Contrast Agents for Ultrasound and MRI. Nature Protocols, 12 (10), 2050–2080
  • Schroder, L.; Lowery, T. J.; Hilty, C.; Wemmer, D. E.; Pines, A. (2006). Molecular Imaging Using a Targeted Magnetic Resonance Hyperpolarized Biosensor. Science, 314 (5798), 446–449
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