Thanks to its extremely high resolution, the AWI’s NMR system can reveal structures down to one-tenth of a millimetre. Researchers can very precisely track metabolic processes within organisms, and investigate where in their bodies, and in which organs, certain effects manifest. “The ability to observe influences on living marine organisms at this resolution is something no other lab in the world can offer,” says Christian Bock. “Normally, NMR machines with such massive field strengths are only used in experimental medical research.”
The NMR system can even be outfitted with a flow channel: temperature-regulated and with an artificial current, the channel allows the researchers to observe how marine organisms like snails, mussels and even fish react to changes in their environment. Using the results, they can deduce how the concentrations of certain metabolic products, e.g. the lactate level, change. Lactate is produced when muscles no longer receive sufficient oxygen. For top athletes, the lactate level is a way of measuring their fitness. In contrast, for Arctic fish that are subjected to rising temperatures, the lactate is an indicator that they are consuming too much oxygen – and are suffering from temperature-related stress.