Leif Schröder How Can Magnetic Resonance Imaging Be Improved for Early Disease Detection?

Leif Schröder is a Research Group Leader of the Molecular Imaging Group at the Leibnitz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology in Berlin. Previously, he spent four years at the University of California at Berkeley, partly supported by an Emmy Noether Fellowship from the German Research Foundation, where he worked on new magnetic resonance imaging techniques based on hyperpolarized xenon biosensors. In 2009, he returned to Germany to join the Leibnitz Institute where he led the Starting Grant Project BiosensorImaging funded by the European Research Council until 2015. His research is dedicated to Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and imaging where he currently takes a special interest in hyperpolarised biosensors for NMR and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Area of Research

NMR Spectroscopy and Imaging

Martin Kunth, Jörg Döpfert, Christopher Witte, Federica Rossella and Leif Schröder. "Optimized Use of Reversible Binding for Fast and Selective NMR Localization of Caged Xenon." Angewandte Chemie International Edition 51 (2012): 8217-8220.  
Franz Schilling, Leif Schröder, Krishnan K. Palaniappan, Sina Zapf, David E. Wemmer and Alexander Pines. "MRI Thermometry Based on Encapsulated Hyperpolarized Xenon." ChemPhysChem 11 (2010): 3529-3533.  
Tyler Meldrum, Leif Schröder, Philipp Denger, David E Wemmer and Alexander Pines. "Xenon-based Molecular Sensors in Lipid Suspensions." Journal of Magnetic Resonance 205 (2010): 242-246.  
Leif Schroeder, Tyler Meldrum, Monica Smith, Thomas J. Lowery, David E. Wemmer and Alexander Pines. "Temperature Response of (129)Xe Depolarization Transfer and its Application for Ultrasensitive NMR Detection." Physical Review Letters 100 (2008).  
Leif Schröder, Lana Chavez, Tayler Meldrum, Monica Smith, Thomas J. Lowery, David E. Wemmer and Alexander Pines. "Temperature-controlled Molecular Depolarization Gates in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance." Angewandte Chemie-International Edition 47 (2008): 4316-4320.  
Leif Schröder, Thomas J. Lowery, Christian Hilty, David E. Wemmer and Alexander Pines. "Molecular Imaging Using a Targeted Magnetic Resonance Hyperpolarized Biosensor." Science 314 (2006): 446-449.  
Leif Schröder, Marc-André Weber, Marco Ulrich and Jens U. Regula. "Metabolic Imaging of Atrophic Muscle Tissue Using Appropriate Markers in 1H and 31P NMR Spectroscopy." Neuroradiology 48 (2006): 809-816.  
Leif Schröder, Christian Schmitz and Peter Bachert. "Cumulative “Roof Effect” in High-resolution in Vivo 31 P NMR Spectra of Human Calf Muscle and the Clebsch–Gordan Coefficients of ATP at 1.5 T." Journal of Magnetic Resonance 174 (2005): 68-77.  
Leif Schröder, Christian Schmitz and Peter Bachert. "Molecular Dynamics and Information on Possible Sites of Interaction of Intramyocellular Metabolites in Vivo from Resolved Dipolar Couplings in Localized 1 H NMR Spectra." Journal of Magnetic Resonance 171 (2004): 213-224.  
Leif Schröder and Peter Bachert. "Evidence for a Dipolar-coupled AM System in Carnosine in Human Calf Muscle from in Vivo 1 H NMR Spectroscopy." Journal of Magnetic Resonance 164 (2003): 256-269.  

since 2014

Head of Junior Research Group "Molecular Imaging"

Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) (more details)

Structural Biology Section


Head of the ERC Project BiosensorImaging

Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) (more details)


Head of the Emmy Noether-Group Molecular Imaging

Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) (more details)


Postdoctoral research fellow

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Materials Sciences Division


Postdoctoral scientist

University of California

Department of Chemistry


Research assistant

Heidelberg University (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)

Department of Medical Physics in Radiology


Doctor of Natural Sciences

Heidelberg University (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)


Diploma in Physics

Heidelberg University (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)


Young Scientist Prize of the International Union for Pure and Applied Physics (2009)

Dr. Emil Salzer Prize for Cancer Research of the German Cancer Research Center (2008)

Philips Research Prize for Medical Physics (2005)


Emmy Noether Fellow of the German Research Foundation (2009)

Reinhart Koselleck Grant of the German Research Foundation (2016)

Starting Grant of the European Research Council (2009)


Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP)

The FMP conducts basic research in Molecular Pharmacology with the aim to identify novel bioactive molecules and to characterize their interactions with their biological targets in cells or organisms. These compounds are useful tools in basic biomedical research and may be further developed for the treatment, prevention, or diagnosis of disease.
To this aim FMP researchers study key biological processes and corresponding diseases, such as cancer, aging including osteoporosis, or neurodegeneration. They also develop and apply advanced technologies ranging from screening technologies over NMR based methods to proteomics and in vivo models. (Source: FMP)

Research Group

Junior Research Group "Molecular Imaging"

"Our group works on the development of magnetic resonance detection techniques for novel targeted contrast agents. Xenon biosensors have an outstanding potential to increase the significance of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in molecular imaging and to combine the advantages of MRI with the high sensitivity of hyperpolarized xenon and the specificity of a functionalized contrast agent. To explore this potential, the European Research Council (ERC) provided funding in terms of a Starting Grant from 2009 until 2014 (BiosensorImaging, GA No. 242710). " (Source)


The technique of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or short MRI, is a useful and widely used tool in clinical diagnostics. However, the current MRI techniques are not sensitive enough to detect low concentrations of drugs or disease related molecules. LEIF SCHRÖDER explains that MRI is typically based on the detection of water molecules. However, the high water concentration that is always present in the body creates a strong background signal obstructing the signal of dilute molecules so only substances at higher concentrations can be found. In the new approach presented in this video, the researchers used the noble gas Xenon, manipulated its magnetic properties and paired it with a contrast agent which senses specific molecules related to cancer. With this technique, they managed to visualize also molecules in very low concentrations as it is the case for early onset cancer. This approach can help to spot diseases at a very early stage or support drug development.

LT Video Publication DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21036/LTPUB10327

Identification, Classification, and Signal Amplification Capabilities of High-turnover Gas Binding Hosts in Ultra-sensitive NMR

  • Martin Kunth, Christopher Witte, Andreas Hennig and Leif Schröder
  • Chemical Science
  • Published in 2015


Martin Kunth, Christopher Witte, Andreas Hennig and Leif Schröder. "Identification, Classification, and Signal Amplification Capabilities of High-turnover Gas Binding Hosts in Ultra-sensitive NMR." Chemical Science 6 (2015): 6069-6075.