JOURNAL ARTICLE

Exploring a new SPION-based MRI contrast agent with excellent water-dispersibility, high specificity to cancer cells and strong MR imaging efficacy

Xuehua Ma, An Gong, Bin Chen, Jianjun Zheng, Tianxiang Chen, Zheyu Shen, Aiguo Wu
Colloids and Surfaces. B, Biointerfaces 2015 February 1, 126: 44-9
25543982
Advances in contrast agents have greatly enhanced the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique for early diagnosis of cancer. However, the commercial superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPION)-based contrast agents synthesized by co-precipitation method are not monodisperse with irregular morphologies and ununiform sizes. Other reported SPION-based contrast agents synthesized by solvothermal method or thermal decomposition method are limited by the bad water-dispersibility and low specificity to cancer cells. Herein, we propose a new strategy for exploring SPION-based MRI contrast agents with excellent water-dispersibility and high specificity to cancer cells. The SPION was synthesized by a polyol method and then entrapped into albumin nanospheres (AN). After that, a ligand folic acid (FA) was conjugated onto the surface of the AN to construct a SPION-AN-FA composite. The transmission electron microscope (TEM) and dynamic light scattering (DLS) results indicate that the SPION-AN-FA has a spherical shape, a uniform size and an excellent water-dispersibility (polydispersity index (PDI) <0.05). The results of laser scanning confocal microscope (LSCM) and flow cytometry demonstrate that the SPION-AN-FA nanoparticles are highly specific to MCF-7 and SPC-A-1 cells due to the recognition of ligand FA and folate receptor α (FRα). The r2/r1 value of SPION-AN-FA is around 40, which is much higher than that of Resovist(®) indicating that our SPION-AN-FA has a stronger T2 shortening effect. The T2-weighted images of MCF-7 cells incubated with SPION-AN-FA are significantly darker than those of MCF-7 cells incubated with AN, indicating that our SPION-AN-FA has a strong MR imaging efficacy. In view of the excellent water-dispersibility, the high specificity to cancer cells and the strong MR imaging efficacy, our SPION-AN-FA can be used as a negative MR contrast agent.

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