"People's Daily" - Xin Zhou devotes himself to study the lung MRI technology

time:   2018-03-19     hits:511

Lung cancer is the “leading killer” in our country. The lack of a non-radioactive medical imaging instrument to obtain the structure and functional information of the lungs has greatly hindered the in-depth study of major lung diseases. But on February 1st this year, The human lung magnetic resonance imaging system, led by Xin Zhou(see figure, file photo), the deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics, has passed the acceptance of the national team of major scientific research instruments, and the performance is well beyond the index standard.

“Our goal is to overcome the difficulty in magnetic resonance imaging technology in the lungs, to light up the lungs and solve the imaging problems for the Chinese people.” Zhou said, “At present, we are carrying out the stability and continuity test of key components. Once these two problems are solved, a key step will be taken for the experimental instrument to enter the hospital and serve the patients!”

Zhou has just turned 40 this year as the youngest chief scientist of the “National Key Scientific Instrument and Equipment Development Project”. After he learnt from Harvard University in the United States, he worked on the interdisciplinary research of magnetic resonance imaging in international top research institutions such as the University of California, Berkeley, and mastered the key technology of ultra-polarized lung imaging. In 2009, he gave up the opportunity of high-paying jobs in the United States and returned to China. In 2012, National Key Scientific Instrument and Equipment Development Project-- a project for the development of a magnetic resonance imaging instrument system for the study of major diseases in the human lung, was formally established. Zhou was the project’s chief scientist.

As National "Ten thousand plan" youth talent, “The National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars” winner, “Award for young scientists of Chinese academy of sciences” winner. Zhou is a “life winner” undoubtedly in the mind of his classmates and junior. But he always tells them, “work hard for full life”.

Zhou’s college entrance examination result was not ideal, so he had to go to a major that he didn’t like. But he corrected his goal in life quickly. He said, “I should maximize my strengths and maximize my value in the most needed places in this era. I should never live a life of mediocrity.” From undergraduate to graduate level, Zhou transferred from computer science to education information technology, from the atomic molecular physics specialty to the magnetic resonance. The purpose was to find the most suitable way for his own scientific research.

Some students laughed at him when he moved to the field of magnetic resonance at the third grade of graduate students. They said that “You went there to repair the equipment every day, and you couldn’t publish the article.” At that time, the magnetic resonance research instrument used in Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics was aging and frequently failed. He said, “Repairing the instrument may not produce results, but not repairing instrument will never produce results.” Two months before his graduation, Zhou had not published any scientific research article, which meant that he could not graduate, and he insisted with great pressure. In the last month before his graduation, Zhou got three SCI (Science Citation Index) papers. The experience of this instrument also solidified the foundation of his MRI machine.

How to "light the lungs"? The traditional signal of magnetic resonance imaging comes from water, which is different from other organs in the human body. It is an empty cavity, and the water density is not enough to image. It is a dark area of "blind area". Zhou uses the non-toxic and harmless inert gas "xenon" as the contrast agent to detect the lungs through the xenon magnetic resonance imaging. But only the enhanced xenon can "light" the lungs. Zhou has his own way. The frequency of the laser is much higher than that of the magnetic resonance. Why not increase the magnetic resonance signal through the laser?

Follow this train of thought, Zhou uses xenon to display information and uses laser to amplify signals. The patient wears a special radio frequency coil vest and inhales laser enhanced xenon-129 gas holding the gas for 6 seconds. And then the corner of lungs can be “lit up”. This quantitative, accurate and visualized lung disease detecting method, without the side effects of invasion and radioactivity, provides a new imaging technique for the diagnosis of early lung diseases.

"Scientific research likes an absorbing melody, and struggle is a dance that never stops." Although the “lung lighting” research has yielded breakthrough results, but there is also a need to accumulate large amounts of data on different lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and lung cancer. Only in this way can it enter the clinic officially. In November 2017, Zhou's team reached cooperation intention with United Imaging and Hengdian Group on the industrial industrialization of “human lung magnetic resonance imaging instrument” to speed up the pace of industrialization. Zhou said "It is our greatest happiness that the results of scientific research can truly benefit the people."

To maximize his value in times of need (The reporter's note)

“Struggle is not always success,but it must be comfortable not to struggle.” For this internet catchphrase, when Zhou was giving a lecture to young students, he was always disproving, "The happiness and joy of the striver is far beyond the comfort of the sluggard!"

Zhou's success was firstly attributed to his spirit of struggle and strong desire for self-realization. “Why not do something meaningful? If there is all of your life anyhow.” This is what Zhou has been using to motivate himself.

What's the point? Zhou believes that it makes sense to let his talents play the most valuable role in the most needed places in this day and age. He found the direction of his struggle, unleashed boundless power, and set an example for the strivers of the new age.

(March 14, 2018, sixth edition of "People's Daily").