New MRI Contrast Agent May Be Safer Than Current Technology

contrast agent

A team at the South Korean Institute for Basic Science has created an iron oxide nanoparticle-based contrast agent which may be a safer replacement for the current technology.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) requires a contrast agent to be injected or consumed by the patient prior to imaging. This allows the machine to read the contrast between the different tissues, creating an image. However, the most commonly used contrast agents, based on gadolinium, can be toxic or dangerous to individuals with kidney disease and may accumulate in the brain. An available alternative, based on iron oxide nanoparticles, is more difficult to read, as it’s difficult to distinguish iron oxide from hemorrhages, blood clots, and Alzheimer’s plaque, for example.

The Molecular Imaging News has reported that researchers at the South Korean Institute for Basic Science have now created a new, iron oxide-based contrast agent with ultra-small nanoparticles. These nanoparticles are called PEG-IONCs and they show better results than traditional iron oxide contrast agents. The PEG-IONCs were tested on animals, including monkeys, and the results show that these nanoparticles are compatible with mammal blood and tissue. These smaller nanoparticles are also easier to administer in patients than previous iron oxide agents. The PEG-IONCs were even useful for dynamic imaging, not just static imaging.

Further work will be needed to ensure PEG-IONCs are a safe and useful contrast agent in humans who need to undergo MRI. However, in the future, these iron oxide nanoparticles, which are relatively safe, could replace gadolinium, especially for diagnosing brain conditions such as stroke or tumor.

Written by C. I. Villamil


Dubinsky 2017 Researchers in South Korea develop a new iron oxide-based MR contrast agent