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Lymphat Res Biol. 2007;5(3):151-8.

Dynamic imaging of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes using a bimodal nanoparticulate contrast agent.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.



Evaluation of lymphedema and lymph node metastasis in humans has relied primarily on invasive or radioactive modalities. While noninvasive technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offer the potential for true three-dimensional imaging of lymphatic structures, invasive modalities, such as optical fluorescence microscopy, provide higher resolution and clearer delineation of both lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels. Thus, contrast agents that image lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes by both fluorescence and MRI may further enhance our understanding of the structure and function of the lymphatic system. Recent applications of bimodal (fluorescence and MR) contrast agents in mice have not achieved clear visualization of lymphatic vessels and nodes. Here the authors describe the development of a nanoparticulate contrast agent that is taken up by lymphatic vessels to draining lymph nodes and detected by both modalities.


A unique nanoparticulate contrast agent composed of a polyamidoamine dendrimer core conjugated to paramagnetic contrast agents and fluorescent probes was synthesized. Anesthetized mice were injected with the nanoparticulates in the hind footpads and imaged by MR and fluorescence microscopy. High resolution MR and fluorescence images were obtained and compared to traditional techniques for lymphatic visualization using Evans blue dye.


Lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels were clearly observed by both MRI and fluorescence microscopy using the bimodal nanoparticulate contrast agent. Characteristic tail-lymphatics were also visualized by both modalities. Contrast imaging yielded a higher resolution than the traditional method employing Evans blue dye. MR data correlated with fluorescence and Evans blue dye imaging.


A bimodal nanoparticulate contrast agent facilitates the visualization of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes by both fluorescence microscopy and MRI with strong correlation between the two modalities. This agent may translate to applications such as the assessment of malignancy and lymphedema in humans and the evaluation of lymphatic vessel function and morphology in animal models.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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