ALMOST 15 years ago, in a basement at Chicago's University of Illinois Medical Center, Michael Barany, MD, PhD, measured phosphorus metabolites in an intact frog muscle using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Prior to that, chemists used spectroscopy solely to analyze the contents of test tubes. Only a British group preceded Barany in proving that it would work in tissue as well. Today, he does spectroscopy clinically, one day a week, at the Greenberg Radiology Institute in Highland Park, Ill, north of Chicago.
Barany says that he can distinguish malignant from benign tumors in the living brain. The tool he uses is a standard magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.
While MRI capabilities have forged ahead, human MRS has been awaiting improvements in magnet and computer technology. Barany is one of a number of researchers who, since the early 1980s, have been developing MRS technology and techniques so that it can be