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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Jul 27;101(30):10901-6. Epub 2004 Jul 15.

MRI detection of single particles for cellular imaging.

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Laboratory of Functional and Molecular Imaging, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


There is rapid growth in the use of MRI for molecular and cellular imaging. Much of this work relies on the high relaxivity of nanometer-sized, ultrasmall dextran-coated iron oxide particles. Typically, millions of dextran-coated ultrasmall iron oxide particles must be loaded into cells for efficient detection. Here we show that single, micrometer-sized iron oxide particles (MPIOs) can be detected by MRI in vitro in agarose samples, in cultured cells, and in mouse embryos. Experiments studying effects of MRI resolution and particle size from 0.76 to 1.63 microm indicated that T(2)* effects can be readily detected from single MPIOs at 50-microm resolution and significant signal effects could be detected at resolutions as low as 200 microm. Cultured cells were labeled with fluorescent MPIOs such that single particles were present in individual cells. These single particles in single cells could be detected both by MRI and fluorescence microscopy. Finally, single particles injected into single-cell-stage mouse embryos could be detected at embryonic day 11.5, demonstrating that even after many cell divisions, daughter cells still carry individual particles. These results demonstrate that MRI can detect single particles and indicate that single-particle detection will be useful for cellular imaging.

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