Research ArticleAPPLIED SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING

High-sensitivity in vivo contrast for ultra-low field magnetic resonance imaging using superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles

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Science Advances  17 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 29, eabb0998
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb0998

Abstract

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners operating at ultra-low magnetic fields (ULF; <10 mT) are uniquely positioned to reduce the cost and expand the clinical accessibility of MRI. A fundamental challenge for ULF MRI is obtaining high-contrast images without compromising acquisition sensitivity to the point that scan times become clinically unacceptable. Here, we demonstrate that the high magnetization of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) at ULF makes possible relaxivity- and susceptibility-based effects unachievable with conventional contrast agents (CAs). We leverage these effects to acquire high-contrast images of SPIONs in a rat model with ULF MRI using short scan times. This work overcomes a key limitation of ULF MRI by enabling in vivo imaging of biocompatible CAs. These results open a new clinical translation pathway for ULF MRI and have broader implications for disease detection with low-field portable MRI scanners.

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