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Iron Oxide Based MR Contrast Agents: from Chemistry to Cell Labeling

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Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles can be used for numerous applications such as MRI contrast enhancement, hyperthermia, detoxification of biological fluids, drug delivery, or cell separation. In this work, we will summarize the chemical routes for synthesis of iron oxide nanoparticles, the fluid stabilization, and the surface modification of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles. Some examples of the numerous applications of these particles in the biomedical field mainly as MRI negative contrast agents for tissue-specific imaging, cellular labeling, and molecular imaging will be given.

Larger particles or particles displaying a non-neutral surface (thanks to their coating or to a cell transfection agent with which they are mixed) are very useful tools, although the cells to be labeled have no professional phagocytic function. Labeled cells can then be transplanted and monitored by MRI in a broad spectrum of applications.

Direct in vivo magnetic labeling of cells is mainly performed by intravenous injection of long-circulating iron oxide-based MRI contrast agents, which can extravasate and/or undergo a cellular uptake in an amount sufficient to allow an MRI visualization of areas of interest such as inflamed regions or tumors.

Particles with long circulation times, or able to induce a strong negative effect individually have been also modified by conjugation to a ligand, so that their cellular uptake, or at least their binding to the cell surface, could occur through a specific ligand-receptor interaction, in vivo as well as in vitro. Thus, experimentally as well as in a few trials on humans, iron oxide particles currently find promising applications.
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Keywords: MRI; cell labeling; cellular uptake; contrast agents; iron oxide nanoparticles; superparamagnetic nanoparticles

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of General, Organic and Biomedical Chemistry, NMR and Molecular Imaging Laboratory, University of Mons, Avenue Maistriau, 19, 7000 Mons, Belgium.

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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