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Building a better MRI. Scientists at BU's Photonics Center are collaborating with doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School to further develop a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that will improve the quality of images of the lungs, blood vessels, and brain. These organs, with low water content or high content of lipids, are difficult to examine with traditional MRI techniques.

The new technology uses a hyperpolarized form of helium and xenon, which are extremely soluble in lipids. Conventional magnetic resonance imaging relies on the strong signal from water protons, abundant in living organisms, but which often produce low-contrast images. This is particularly problematic in imaging the lungs and lipid parts of nerves and the brain, most significantly the perfusion of the brain's white matter, which is currently inaccessible to any form of MRI. Nonhyperpolarized xenon is only moderately detectable by MRI, and virtually undetectable at the concentrations attainable in living organisms. When xenon is hyperpolarized, however, its detectability is enhanced by about a hundred thousand times, producing extremely high resolution MRI images.

Bennett Goldberg, CAS associate professor of physics and of electrical and computer engineering, and Selim Unlu, ENG assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, with Dr. Mitchell Albert of Brigham and Women's, will develop the stable, high-power, diode laser-driven optical pumping apparatus necessary to produce the large quantities of hyperpolarized xenon that are key to the success of the system.

The multidisciplinary research team, combining expertise ranging from optical engineering and atomic physics to MRI technology and physiology, is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Study examines Latino health beliefs. According to a new investigation by Boston Medical Center and Children's Hospital pediatrics researchers, Latino parents' beliefs about their children's fevers can affect how they use health-care services. They may also have significant clinical consequences. The study, El Nino Caliente: Fever Beliefs and Practices of Latino Parents: What Are the Clinical Implications? has been selected for presentation at the 1999 Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Francisco.

Elsie M. Taveras, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, conducted a study designed to determine how Latino parents differ from other ethnic groups in their beliefs and practices about fever in children and about the potential implications those beliefs might have on clinical care. "Latinos will soon be the largest minority group in the U.S., and more than 11 million Latinos are children," says Taveras. Fever in children represents between 10 and 20 percent of pediatric urgent care visits among this group, yet few studies have been done to examine Latino families' practices and beliefs concerning fevers.

Of the 274 parents interviewed, 128 were Latino, 40 were African-American, and 68 were white. Latinos and African-Americans were much more likely to have taken their child to hospital emergency rooms for fever than were whites. Latino parents were significantly more likely to blame the cause of fevers on such "folk illnesses" as mal de ojo (evil eye) or susto (sudden fright) and to visit the ER more than other ethnic groups, and were less likely to own a thermometer, according to Taveras. She says that parental beliefs about fevers may have an important impact on children's health and use of health-care services.

Dr. Glenn Flores, an assistant professor of pediatrics at BUSM, also contributed to the study.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations