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Stony Brook researchers: Our MRI dye safer

Scientists from Stony Brook University have developed an experimental dye for MRI scans that they hope will produce sharper images without damaging patients' kidneys.

Their finding, detailed Thursday in the medical journal PLoS ONE, involves using a form of carbon called graphene to make contrasting dye, which is used in roughly 40 percent of MRIs. The substance is currently made with gadolinium, a metallic element linked to harmful side effects, prompting the Federal Drug Administration to recommend limiting its use.

By substituting less-toxic graphene, the Stony Brook team found their dye could produce higher-contrast images than when using gadolinium. "You can achieve the same image at a lower dose," said Balaji Sitharaman, the author of the study and an assistant professor in Stony Brook's biomedical engineering department.

Sitharaman and his team plan to test the substance through Theragnostic Technologies Inc., a biotech company launched in February. The company is based at the The Long Island High Technology Incubator in Stony Brook and is part of a larger effort by the university, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and other Long Island research institutions to help local scientists turn research into commercial products. Sitharaman is president of Theragnostic Technologies.

Initially, Theragnostic will test the dye's safety and effectiveness on rats and rabbits. Sitharaman said he hoped the dye would gain FDA approval by 2017.

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