Nuclear spin hyperpolarization enables real-time observation of metabolism and intermolecular interactions in vivo. 1-13C-Pyruvate is the leading hyperpolarized tracer currently under evaluation in several clinical trials as a promising molecular imaging agent. Still, the quest for a simple, fast, and efficient hyperpolarization technique is ongoing. Here, we describe that continuous, weak irradiation in the audio-frequency range of the 13C spin at 121 μT magnetic field (~twice Earth’s field) enables spin order transfer from parahydrogen to 13C magnetization of 1-13C-pyruvate.
These so-called LIGHT-SABRE pulses couple nuclear spin states of parahydrogen and pyruvate via the J-coupling network of reversibly exchanging Ir-complexes. Using ~100% parahydrogen at ambient pressure, we polarized 51 mM of 1-13C-pyruvate in the presence of 5.1 mM Ir-complex continuously and repeatedly to a polarization of 1.1% averaged over free and catalyst-bound pyruvate. The experiments were conducted at -8°C), where almost exclusively bound pyruvate was observed, corresponding to an estimated 11% polarization on bound pyruvate. The obtained hyperpolarization levels closely match those obtained via SABRE-SHEATH under otherwise identical conditions. The creation of three different types of spin orders was observed: transverse 13C magnetization along the applied magnetic field, 13C z-magnetization along the main field B0, and 13C-1H zz-spin-order. With a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) for detection, we found that the generated spin orders result from 1H-13C J-coupling interactions, which are not visible even with our narrow linewidth below 0.3 Hz and at -8oC.