Magnet Use

National High Magnetic Field LaboratoryNational High Magnetic Field Laboratory logo

The Merritt lab is a frequent user of the Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Facility (AMRIS) housed within the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida in Gainesville.  This facility is part of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, and is the largest and highest-powered magnet lab in the world. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the state of Florida, each year more than 2,000 scientists come from across the globe to use our facilities at Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory to probe fundamental questions about materials energy and life.


While the Magnet Facility here in Gainesville is involved in research into superconductors, next-generation catalysts and structural chemistry, it is also used by several groups including the Merritt lab to research complex biochemical reactions and interactions in a variety of different ways.

  • Using Magnetic Resonance to Probe Lipid Synthesis in Response to Ketogenic Diet Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and its progression to more serious diseases will become the main cause for liver transplant in the next 5 years. Here, researchers used deuterium magnetic resonance to study dietary influences on lipid synthesis demonstrating that high fat ketogenic diets significantly slow de novo lipogenesis, a process by which excess carbohydrates are covered into fatty acids and stored as triacylglycerols.
  • Deuterium Magnetic Resonance Can Detect Cancer Metabolism Magnetic resonance of cancer cell metabolism is a novel technique to discern between cancerous and normal liver cells, providing a promising approach for cancer stage progression imaging without the harmful exposure of radiation.
  • 13C NMR Metabolomics: Applications at Natural Abundance 13C NMR when used in metabolomics 1. Provides better peak list for database matching and spectral annotation, 2. Provides better group separation and loadings annotation when using multivariate statistical analysis, and 3. Prevents possible misidentification of metabolites.

The research topics covered in the Merritt lab are primarily the use of deuterium labeled compounds to follow the metabolic fate of glucose breakdown products and metabolites in the Krebs Cycle, and 13C labeling of various metabolites in which hyperpolarization provides unique metabolic information.

The use of the magnet facility for these approaches is essential.  This technology allows a greater understanding of the differences in metabolism in normal tissue and tumor tissue, and in doing so can offer up new strategies by which tumors may be treated for improved outcomes.  Similarly, the ability to track metabolites in different types of disease such as diabetes may offer up new strategies for control or remission.